Issue 163
October 27 - November 2, 2003
Volume 3
page 1
 

This Issue

Gaming News
Visually stunning Blue Man Group what Vegas needs

Trump finally gets highway ramp in A.C.

US network to launch casino channel

Boss Media sells Casino.com

Casino is All Consuming in Sanford, Maine

 

Show Time
Natalie Cole performs in "her own style" at Paris Las Vegas.

Column
What on Earth Were These Blackjack Players Thinking? By Fred Renzey

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Visually stunning Blue Man Group what Vegas needs
From The Las Vegas Review Journal

It's fairly obvious from any TV commercial or print ad: "Blue Man Group: Live at Luxor" isn't for everyone. The surprise -- if you can call it that -- is that it's for more people than it might seem. Certainly, there were clues that the Blue Man Group isn't as avant-garde or off-putting as the trademark skullcaps and cobalt-blue greasepaint of its three silent stars would suggest. Weird for weird's sake might play for a few months in the East Village.

Here in the West, we've heard of stranger ways for city folks back East to make money than to splatter paint on stuff or chomp Cap'n Crunch into a microphone. But to play New York for 12 years running, there's got to be something universal and populist at work. If the Blue Man show didn't make any sense at all -- or if it wasn't so darn funny -- it wouldn't be a long-running enterprise in three cities. And the troupe wouldn't have been invited to town by Mandalay Resort Group, which used to have a pretty uptight corporate image. After all, the Luxor's 1,200-capacity showroom previously hosted a show called "Imagine," which didn't.


The Blue Man Group does, and as a result, you'll never look at PVC pipe in quite the same way. That it's a hard show to describe says a lot in itself. Like Cirque du Soleil before it, the Blue Man Group focuses its music and visuals into a unique point of view that supplants any single element. That unified vision combines contradictory elements in a fast hour and a half. There's highbrow humor and schoolyard play-with-your-food tricks. Old-fashioned sleight-of-hand, and genuine efforts to explain science and nature. Think of the Blue Man Group as three people who understand technology better than most of us, but who prefer humanity. They could have been engineers or software designers, but chose to create their own low-tech playground instead.

After a two-week soft opening period, the show's founders -- Chris Wink, Phil Stanton and Matt Goldman -- put the greasepaint back on for a March 14 "world premiere" in front of an invited audience that included fellow mischief-makers Penn & Teller and writer-performance artist Spalding Gray. (A rotating repertoire of Blue Men will perform most future shows.) A moody overture from the seven-piece band, working on upper levels left and right of the stage, begins a hammering barrage of percussion that continues for much of the show, accented by angular spaghetti Western guitar. Emerging from behind a screen where they've been "animated" in silhouette by hand-held strobes, the three curious, slightly robotic Blue Men perform a first-half of "greatest hits" segments from humbler days in smaller venues. This includes squirting fluorescent paint into drum heads, the microphone-enhanced Cap'n Crunch-ing, and some stuntwork in which you find out how many little cream cheese balls a Blue Man can catch and hold in his mouth. Without giving away the punchlines, there's a running satire on abstract art as well. Insights into modern plumbing, information-age overload and an audience member's mouth lead to more basic comedy when an audience "volunteer" is dragged to the stage to share Twinkies with the trio.

The second half reveals the bigger, more expensive toys the Blue Men built to fill the 50-foot stage. They use foam-rubber paddles to play their PVC version of a vibraphone -- the notes determined by the length of each pipe segment -- before the stage reveals a two-story "drum wall" with seven percussion stations. Two stunning set pieces follow: A wall of neon that makes a two-dimensional cartoon vista come to life, and an amazing display of how our eyes are tricked into the process of animation every time we watch a film. Two turntables (zoetropes, to be exact) on each side of the stage spin faster and faster until a circle of statues begin a tribal dance. By the time the crowd sang "White Rabbit" and participated in a finale that brings back high school memories of papering the popular girl's yard, the opening night audience had bonded into a tribe of its own. The question is, can it happen every night? Not everyone is going to be enamored of the aggressive, persistently percussive music. And then there's the size of the theater. Despite a sincere effort to take the action to the back rows, the low-budget segments from the early days don't carry all the way to the cheap seats. And "cheap" means $55 for the back of the room and $65 for the front, which is $10 more than tickets for the cozier New York production. The Blue Men will learn whether Las Vegas audiences still expect more production value for that price than the stark lighting and minimalist, black warehouse vibe they offer. But the Blue Men are here to challenge old notions of Las Vegas entertainment. And after decades of revues that were spliced together from other sources, assembled by committee or updated piecemeal over the years, an inspired imagination may just prove to be the real commodity after all. "The Blue Man Group: Live at Luxor" is presented at 7 and 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 7 p.m. Sundays and Mondays in the Luxor Theater at the Luxor, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd. So. Tickets are $55 and $65. Grade: A


Trump finally gets highway ramp in A.C.
From The Press of Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY - The Trump Ramp?

Let's see, there's the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and the Trump Marina Hotel Casino. Could a highway ramp be the next Atlantic City landmark to carry the glitzy Trump marque?Probably not. Still, it was built for Trump.Nearly four months late, the $12 million project finally opened Thursday night without any fanfare. The structure is essentially an elevated U-turn that loops over Huron Avenue to take traffic from the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa to the Trump Marina."It's four months late, but it's a positive," Trump said Friday in a less-than-glowing critique.At one point, it appeared the ramp's opening would be delayed until the end of the year, but the lead contractor beefed up the workforce recently in a final push to get it completed.

"We built it as fast as we could get it done," said Kathleen C. Aufschneider, chief engineer of the South Jersey Transportation Authority, the state agency that supervised the project.The ramp was promised to Trump in exchange for dropping his protracted legal battle two years ago against another highway project, the $330 million Atlantic City Expressway Connector, the tunnel and roadway system serving the Marina District.Trump fought the connector, arguing that it was little more than a "private driveway" to rival Steve Wynn's proposed casino across the street from Trump Marina.Wynn's casino was never built, but the connector was a crucial part of the billion-dollar Borgata. Trump thought the connector route did not provide enough access between the Borgata and his Marina casino, so he demanded the ramp's construction to create a link between the two properties.The South Jersey Transportation Authority, which operates the Atlantic City Expressway, agreed to build the ramp in return for Trump dropping his lawsuits against the connector project. In their settlement, the authority and Trump agreed to split the ramp's cost 50-50.

Originally, the ramp was supposed to be completed in time for the Borgata's grand opening in early July, but construction was delayed by unusually rainy weather and soggy soil.The delays prompted Trump to threaten the authority with legal claims for his alleged financial losses. He said the delays prevented Trump Marina from capitalizing on the extra business generated by the Borgata's opening during the summer tourist season."People could go over there and they couldn't get back," Trump said of the lack of access between the Borgata and Trump Marina. "It had a very big impact. We were really hurt because this ramp was not completed as per the contract."The final numbers aren't in, but Trump said he is preparing to submit a "big damage claim" with the transportation authority to reflect his losses."It was supposed to be done. It could easily have been done, and they failed to live up to their obligation," he said.Aufschneider said the authority hasn't received any formal claims yet from Trump, but she noted that she has had discussions with his local representatives. Talks are also being held with the ramp's lead contractor, Agate Construction Co. Inc. of Dennis Township, to resolve claims that it has submitted to the authority."In the end, there are trade-offs," Aufschneider said. "We're trying to work it all out."

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