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Coverage of our trips to Las Vegas
Tuesday, 28 September 2010 19:00

M Resort Spa and Casino, “M”mm… Just My Style!

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Kimberly Katz’ Platinum Press - M Resort Spa and Casino in Las Vegas

M-Resort-Poolsideview-Dusk-1

Each year when I go to Las Vegas to review the great shows and resorts I have such a variety of great options it makes it very difficult to choose where to stay. When I heard some great word of mouth about the brand new M Resort from a real estate developer friend in Las Vegas I decided to check out their website. As soon as I heard the strains of “The Mating Game, Yes King Remix” by the band Bittersweet playing on their promo video I could tell this was going to be a sexy, modern resort with the class and style that would suit me perfectly for a working vacation in Vegas.

 

The Suite:

 

M-Resort-Hotel-Room-King-SuiteI chose the Classic One Bedroom suite for my three night stay there and it turned out to be so spacious and well appointed I found it difficult to leave the room! I loved the clean modern decor, in shades of brown, black and cream; the room had an upscale, yet casual masculine feel. Both the large living room and bedroom had floor to ceiling windows with a stunning view of the beautiful pool area and mountains with the strip lights twinkling in the distance, yet just ten minutes away.

 

I really appreciated the two 42 inch flat screen TV’s, as well as a third TV in the bathroom dressing area. I hate to be without music when dressing or lounging in my room in Vegas and very few hotels provide any, so another really nice touch is the Bose Radio in the bedroom with awesome stereo sound that gave my stay a rocking soundtrack to remember it by. Although I did not have occasion to use it, the well-stocked mini bar included an “Intimacy Love Kit” by Booty Parlor with massage oils, protection and a tickle feather, which I thought was a delightful and thoughtful amenity to provide. There’s nothing like running down to the gift shop hunting for massage oils in the middle of the night to ruin the “mood.”

 

The enormous closet valet was also beautiful and well equipped with high quality

“His and Hers” robes and slippers. With all the walking in heels I do in Vegas, I spend a lot of time in the tub nursing my aching feet so I was happy to find a spa tub and lovely marble rain shower alongside the generous double vanity. I loved that the spa tub had a retractable shade that allowed you to view not only the bedroom while you bathed but also the stunning view of the strip lights at night while soaking in the luxurious Azzurro bath salts and Massaging Soap that M provides to suite guests.

 

The Spa:

 

I always tell my readers when in Vegas, don’t just hit the casino, enjoy the spa and get a massage! You always win when you bet your money on a good spa or massage treatment and leave refreshed and ready to enjoy your evening!

 

The decor of Spa and Salon Mio is absolutely breathtaking and the spa itself meticulously clean and well maintained. I absolutely adored the vaulted ceiling two-story rain shower with a massive 24 inch shower head above that gave you the feeling of being in a tropical downpour as well as four more heads to massage you from all angles.

Enjoying a rain shower while viewing the gorgeous softly pink-lit crystal chandelier and ever changing light show reflecting softly on the mother of pearl tiled two story water walls behind the huge and pristine Jacuzzi tubs was a healing and rejuvenating experience in itself, and not to be missed.

Occasionally I am disappointed by the actual massage treatment rooms of a nice spa if they turn out to be too small or clinical but not so here at Spa Mio. As my massage therapist, Shellen, lead me down the softly lit Asian themed, dark wood hallway to my treatment room I felt more and more relaxed and catered to. The treatment room itself was extremely large and luxurious, the soft music subtle and enchanting. I could tell as soon as I lay down that the velvety soft sheets on the table were of the highest thread count linen and were absolutely heaven to the touch. I told my therapist Shellen that I had a long night ahead of me with a concert and dinner to follow and did not want a very deep massage as that sometimes gives me a headache and she catered her massage touch just perfectly to both relax me and work out the tension in my shoulders, neck and hips from flying. True to her word, I had no headache later on and felt full of relaxed energy the entire weekend due to her fantastic massage.

 

After my expert massage I enjoyed a wonderful concert by world-class performer Chris Isaak out under the stars on the Villaggio Del Sole Pool and Entertainment Piazza. There is no better way to enjoy live music than by torchlight with a full moon above. The soft, warm summer breezes felt delightful by the side of M’s softly illuminated swimming pool with the strip lights glimmering behind the stage.

 

The Dining:

 

M-Resort-Veloce-Cibo-Restaurant-Bar-2For late night dining I chose to dine at restaurant Veloce Cibo on the top floor of M Resort, which is generously open until one AM with beautiful views of the night skyline. Chef Nathan Frost was an absolutely delightful dining companion and thoroughly described each of the special dishes he prepared for me in detail. For late night supper, I really enjoy small dishes and appetizer size plates and that is Veloce’s specialty. I honestly loved the creativity and presentation of everything I sampled and can recommend highly the super fresh oysters chilled on ice, Roasted Duck and Thai Roti Pancake with julienne vegetables and peanut dipping sauce, as well as the adorable Mini Lobster Tacos with grilled mango lime and avocado puree served with a straw like an avocado milkshake. The Macadamia Nut Crusted Scallop with apple fries and blood orange beurre blanc was unique and astounding, as was the Surf and Turf Roll with Spicy Tuna and Kobe beef.

The Studio B buffet, voted Best Buffet in Vegas was a wonderful entertainment experience as well with Chef Tina Martini’s live studio cooking show which mixes cooking with healthy, how to culinary tips, recipes and food sampling. This buffet really was exceptionally fresh with hundreds of well-prepared and delicious gourmet dishes to choose from. My favorite food in the world has to be crab legs and there were three different kinds of crab at the Studio Buffet, including steamed, chilled and one in an exotic curry broth. My only complaint here is that the crab legs were not scored for easy access, so unfortunately at the end of my buffet visit which was brief because I was on my way to see a show, most of the fantastic crab legs had to be left uneaten on my plate. The oxtail soup was incredible with tender, sweet pieces of oxtail falling off the bone and melting in my mouth. It was also fun to grab a handful of fortune cookies for dessert along with a freshly made hot cappuccino from the huge dessert and coffee bar selection.

 

I fancy myself a bit of a soup connoisseur. When I am working and traveling in dry climates like Las Vegas and flying in a dry cabin, etc. sometimes the only thing that will comfort me before retiring is a well-prepared bowl of soup. In addition to the magical oxtail soup at Studio B, I had a really wonderful, authentic bowl of steaming hot Matzo ball soup at the Vig Deli, which was conveniently open till 7 AM for a night owl like myself. I also enjoyed the most spectacular bowl of Maryland She Crab Bisque at The Oyster Bar. The She Crab Bisque was full of sweet tender “she” crab chunks in a perfectly seasoned and balanced cream sherry base. As I stirred the soup I noticed a small spot of blood red in the center, which turned out to be a hidden spoonful of sweet red caviar- to die for!

 

I highly recommend staying at M Resort for any traveler who is looking for an intimate boutique hotel experience with all the amenities of a large Vegas hotel and casino. From the moment I arrived till the day of my departure I was treated with the utmost courtesy and casual friendliness by every single employee there. Particularly when traveling as a woman alone, it was so important to me to feel warmth and genuine caring from the front desk staff, business center, waiters, spa attendants, and maid service, which made my working vacation in Las Vegas a pleasure and a delight that I look forward to repeating many times in the future.

 

 

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 20:14

Tips For Getting Las Vegas Concert Tickets

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las-vegas_119180716No wonder that Las Vegas concerts are some of the most desired worldwide. When it comes to the biggest names, hottest acts and amazing shows they can always be had from any of the casino, hotels and venues that Las Vegas has. Headliner acts, tour stops, comedians and even lesser known but still popular musicians always make Vegas their home from time to time. Getting tickets for the popular shows can become difficult or very expensive. Here are some tips to help assure all the excitement without disappointment.

Planning ahead is a good idea with any venture but especially when hoping to go to any of the big Las Vegas concerts. The major tours and headliner acts will be sold out months in advance. If you know the time that you will be traveling to the city then make sure to look at what shows will be playing. Use the many online travel and entertainment sites on the net. Find the show or shows you want to see while there and book the seats early. This will secure great seats at the face value costs.

For everyone a trip to Las Vegas happens on a whim. For those who often travel into this entertainment capital they can take advantage of the hotels. The concierge desk will often have extra tickets for hot shows. These tickets are held for repeat customers and those who use the hotel often. If you are often in Vegas and stay at the same hotels and casinos ask if they can get the Las Vegas concert tickets that you are in need of.

Getting good seats to even the biggest concert tours can always be done if willing to spend the cash. There are many respectable Las Vegas concert brokers who will have even front row seats to a show sold out many months ago. The drawdown to this is that the seats will cost a pretty penny. If money is no object then this may be the way to go. Getting front row seats to a huge sold out event is for high rollers. These brokers will have upper level seating available for most Las vegas concerts that will not break the bank. They may not be the greatest seats, but at least you are in th show and a part of the excitement.

If all else fails or you cannot spend the extra cash for a ticket costing more than face value then hit the net. The auction sites may have some Las Vegas concert tickets available from an individual who needs to get rid of them. The many free classified sites may also have a legitimate person who cannot attend the event and just want to recoup their money. These are more dangerous ways to get tickets because of the many scam artists online. Desperate times may call for desperate measures. Probably, the safest way to go would be finding a web site with an official fan forum. These forums and groups usually require that you register with them. They are for true fans of any particular artists, band or music act. There are less likely to be a scam artist within these tight niche groups. Make a post in the groups asking if anyone has some spare tickets for the date you want to attend. Make sure to put the location, venue, and time of the event as well as a way to get in contact !

with you.

It would be hard to conceive of a trip to Sin City without grabbing some Las Vegas concert tickets and seeing a live show. The performances in Vegas always seem to go above and beyond other cities. Perhaps it is the entertainer's excitement to be playing in what has become the entertainment capital of the world or patrons extra level of excitement. Perhaps it is just the intimacy of the smaller casino venues that helps create the thrill. Whatever the cause one thing is certain, nothing beats seeing a live concert in Las Vegas!
Wednesday, 09 July 2008 19:00

Cinevegas Film Fest Brings the Stars to "Sin City"

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Kim Katz and Dwayne Johnson at CinevegasAs if it wasn’t hot enough in sunny 110-degree Las Vegas, the desert city would only get hotter as the stars came out in droves in support of the CineVegas 2008 Film Festival. This year marked the 10th anniversary of the trendy film celebration and each day of the 10-day bash had its fill of excitement, significance and wonderment with both indie and major movies being shown, daily red carpet events and sizzling parties to cap off each night.

 

Kicking off the opening day ceremonies was the red carpet for The Rocker starring Rainn Wilson as “Fish”, a drummer from an 80’s rock band who was dumped just before they hit it big and now, 20 years later, joins his nephew’s garage band. Fans with “I drum naked” t-shirts gathered at the entrance to the red carpet and screamed as Rainn exited a large bus in full metal gear, guitar strapped to his back. Before making his way to the red carpet, Rainn escorted CineVegas chairman Dennis Hopper from the vehicle to another band of loud cheers. Joining The Rocker star were also Jane Lynch, a stunning Emma Stone, and director Peter Cattaneo among other various cast members and CineVegas brass including president Robin Greenspun. 

 

“Looks like this is the only female president you’ll get this year,” laughed Robin when BuzzNews.TV reporter Kim Katz commented on the fact that no woman would be heading the White House this year.

 

Rainn joked his way down the red carpet accompanied with a magician, gorgeous “groupies” and showgirls. When asked about his overdone rocker garb, which included a bandana, jean vest, tattoos and leather accessories, Rainn responded with, “They wanted me to dress up and I told them, ‘No way. I’m not going to wear a costume. I won’t do it. I’m just going to wear what I would wear every day.’”

 

Kim Katz and Robert Duvall at Cinevegas 2008Each night of CineVegas 2008 featured an after party and opening day was no exception as cast members, CineVegas personnel, media people and fans gathered that night at Moon, a club on an upper floor in the Palms at which the roof retracts for a beautiful sky view. Rainn kicked the night off right dancing atop his booth alongside the Moon dancers to entertain those inside the club while others crammed onto the balcony overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. The ritzy Palms Place Pool was the site for the next night’s party with other parties during the ten-day stretch taking place at Rain, Tao (Venetian), The Beatles Revolution Lounge (Mirage), Planet Hollywood’s poolside and the Freemont Street Drive-In. However it was the closing night party, a Vegas Magazine event at The Palazzo Hotel & Casino pool, that had everyone talking. Upon entry were two beautiful models wearing huge angel wings and one sitting in a champagne glass tossing silver confetti as one would walk past. Female contortionists in giant transparent bubbles floated ever so gently throughout the pool as other models were stationed in various locations. The air was balmy and provided the perfect breeze for what was easily the finest social event during the festival’s ten days.

 

 

Midway through the festival at the Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino, Dwayne Johnson was on hand for the Get Smart red carpet in support of The Rock Foundation, his charity that provides programs designed to enrich and empower the lives and self-esteem of under-served, at-risk youth and children hospitalized for medical disabilities, disorders and illnesses. Despite being the only cast member from Get Smart to make an appearance for the event, fans lined up throughout the casino’s extended red carpet just to get a glimpse of the Hollywood superstar.

 

With so much attention going to the many great films in the festival such as “Your Name Here”, “Women in Boxes” and “Goliath”, the focus was also on a handful of actors who would receive awards for their fine contributions to the film industry. The honorees included James Caan, who was presented with the Vegas Icon Award by Robert Duvall.

 

“A guy like me is just an observer in this town,” Duvall replied when asked what he thinks of Las Vegas, “but Jimmy [Caan] owns this town!”

 

Rosario Dawson at Cinevegas 2008Film icons Don Cheadle, Rosario Dawson, Sam Rockwell and Viggo Mortensen were all recipients of the Half-Life Award, but were also on hand to support films in which they starred. Angelica Huston was also present to receive the Marquee Award. It surely was a star-studded red carpet for the CineVegas 2008 Honorees Reception as each celebrity mingled with the press and posed for photographers. 

 

Sam Rockwell was also getting plenty of attention for his new movie “Choke” directed by Clark Gregg, who adapted it from the novel by Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club). “Choke” also stars Angelica Huston who plays sex addict Victor Mancini’s (Rockwell) mother. To help support his mother, Mancini, whom works as a reenactor of Colonial Times, cons others by “choking” at restaurants. The film’s director, Gregg, who was present for the Honorees Reception, explained that once he read the book, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to direct the film. 

 

Not to be outdone by “Choke”, Rosario Dawson was making her own mark for her fantastic performance in “Explicit Ills”, written and directed by Mark Webber.

 

The films at CineVegas were plentiful and of a wide variety. They ran the gamut from shorts to hard-hitting documentaries like “Cocaine Cowboys II” and “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson”, to highly anticipated premiers such as “Big Heart City”, “Dark Streets”, “South of Heaven”, and “She Unfolds by Day”.

 

Finally, after nine wondrous days of film-mania, live interviews were given by Rosario Dawson, Angelica Huston and Sam Rockwell that included Q&A sessions afterward. The festival closed that night with the film “The Great Buck Howard” starring a strong cast including Hollywood talents John Malkovich, Steve Zahn, Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt and Tom Hanks.

 

To see a day-by-day play-by-play of this tremendous film festival, go to www.CineVegas.com. Also, make sure to check out BuzzNews.TV’s coverage at www.BuzzNews.TV to see Buzz’ own Kim Katz talking with Dwayne Johnson, Rainn Wilson, Robert Duvall, Viggo Mortensen and more!      

I have to say that it was difficult to leave the MGM, the overall atmosphere there day and night is one of fun, glamour and modern, yet  self effacing  luxury .It is not surprising that AAA selected MGM Grand as one of its 2007 Four Diamond Award recipients.

MGM PoolWhen we decided to feature a single Las Vegas hotel and casino for this special edition I began studying the hotels as I always do by checking out their pool area first. Here in Chicago the summer is very short and winter very long so when I go to Vegas I like to really enjoy the sun and dry heat during the day.

With five different pools and three whirlpools to choose from the MGM Grand Pool Complex is hands down one of the best Vegas pools I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I chose to hang out in the Backlot River pool because of its fantastic lazy river and giant waterfalls.  I absolutely felt like a kid again after renting an inner tube and being carried along with other vacationers on the very powerful jet system over a city block long. Surrounded by lush foliage and gorgeous palms, the waterfalls were strong enough to give me a full body massage before returning to my lounge chair with one of the very delicious mango and coconut smoothies served with three different kinds of rum.

Usually there is relatively little interaction between guests around a pool area and you can get that at any of the quieter pools including The Director, Academy and Producer’s Pools, but the laughs and good feelings that occurred as hundreds of adults and kids wiggled and bumped into each other, drinks in hand, floating around the lazy river was just the most adorable and fun thing I have enjoyed in Vegas in a long time.

The Room!!

The second thing I look for in hotel is the bedding and quality of room furnishings and bath area. There may have been a time in my youth when I could make do with an inferior bed or tiny bathroom but when you are working or playing in Vegas and walking all day, there is nothing that helps you keep your energy up like a good quality bed and large bathing area.

The pillow top beds at MGM Grand are so luxurious and comfy you may have a hard time leaving them. Covered with thick white down comforters and five down pillows, these are the top of the line and make coming home to your room or suite after a long day and night of gambling, a divine pleasure.

We were upgraded to a Bungalow Suite with a view of the strip and with our tight schedule of reviewing two shows a night we really needed every inch of extra space and the separate shower and shower tub the suite provides. Having two bathing areas was a wonderful essential and saved a lot of time and aggravation when trying to get more than one person ready in time for all the night has to offer in Vegas.

Although most people do not spend much time looking out the window in Vegas, I do.

A strip view is important to me and I always request one because it just isn’t a Vegas vacation without a view of those magnificent lights and wild architecture.  In the morning I like to wake up and enjoy a cup of coffee and a cigarette, to the sunny view of the casinos and mountains and at night I enjoy winding down and reviewing the night’s activities while drinking in the spectacular sparkling lights and billboards. If I can’t see it all I just don’t feel like I’m in Las Vegas!

The furnishings in the MGM rooms and suites are all thoroughly modern and have lovely, sexy portraits of Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. The lighting and color schemes are a restful and luxurious selection of golden earth tones, which I really enjoyed. This is a funny aside, I wore a black and white blouse to fly in and when we walked into the black and white marble styled bathroom, the stripes on my blouse exactly matched the shower curtain in our suite. The bathroom was well equipped with nice toiletries including shower gel, a quality glycerin facial soap and knobby massage body soap. It’s fun to take home the extras to remind yourself of the vacation you just enjoyed when you get home to your own shower.

The Food!!

The MGM provides many delicious eatsThe MGM Grand has so many great quality restaurants to enjoy it is impossible to try them all but we love sushi and reviewed the great fresh fare at Shibuya. The restaurant itself is very romantic and the modern décor with a floor to ceiling wall of ever changing lights behind the many sushi chefs was in itself a relaxing and luxurious event.

Shibuya has an extensive Sake list to choose from. I didn’t know there were that many kinds of sake to choose from and always thought sake was bitter. So I asked our very helpful server for sweet sake and she brought me the most delicious cold saki I have ever tasted. Yuki no Bosha or Cabin in the Snow truly exhibited well-defined aromas of ripe strawberries and peaches while leaving me with a smooth soft texture at finish.

People are so happy and friendly while vacationing at the MGM and the pair of diners next to me offered me a shot of their warm sake choice as just I was leaving to make a show. The man said he couldn’t remember the Japanese name but that I had to try it as it was a three hundred dollar variety of sake and was the very best and let me tell you that little thimbleful of perfectly warmed sake was a diner’s delight!

The sushi was all beautifully prepared and served and the main dishes I tried including the buttery soft Nobi beef short ribs and scallops and lobster tails in butter were all very fresh and very rich in flavor.  If you’ve ever been trapped and hungry in Vegas hotel with a lot of mediocre overpriced food choices, you will be delighted by all the quality choices you have at MGM including Craftsteak, Emeril’s and SeaBlue. I already have the fabulous French Joel Robuchon on my list of restaurants there that I would like to review on my next visit!

There is also a fun, airy food court in the MGM shop area with lots of quick, low priced fare for those lunches on the way back to your room after your pool time and late night snacks.

The Gambling!!

When I return to my home base hotel at the end of a night of shows I like to find a friendly and exciting environment. That is one of the things I liked best about staying at MGM, the atmosphere there is very youthful but classy with well-dressed young people

Spilling out of Studio 54 and just having a great time at the many lovely but relaxing lounges in the casino area.  The slots are constantly changing with new and fun games popping up and one of the neat things about MGM is that their club players card is valid for use at all of the casinos associated with the MGM including Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York New York, and Treasure Island.

This makes it easier to get comps and credit for your play as you peruse the strip without having to sign up for and carry five different club cards!

The Spa and Massage!!

MGM spaI discovered the incredible benefits of utilizing a hotel spa in Las Vegas especially because of all the walking you have to do there. The luxurious spa at MGM is conveniently located right next to the pool entrance, so it is easy to have a dip and sunbath and then just head right in for your massage still in your swimwear.

I had a wonderful and healing Swedish massage from a very sweet lady named Bea, a loyal employee who has been with the MGM Grand since it opened. I really liked the waiting area for massage, it was very relaxing with subdued lighting, large double deep chaise lounges and three kinds of chilled water or tea including one with orange slices, one with mint leaves and a light delicious tea made of hibiscus and honey. They also provide granola bars and very fresh bananas and apples to snack on while waiting which is great to keep your energy up while moving from the massage to purifying steam and sauna.

 

I really like to use those icy, chilled hand towels in the steam room- one on each pulse point and the MGM adds a nice touch by adding fresh cucumber slices to the ice, which not only gives the towels a delicious aroma but also gives you a nice eye mask if you place them on your eyelids while in the Jacuzzi.

The Entertainment!!

Crazy Horse at MGMThe MGM has several great shows to see including Cirque Du Soleil’s KA, the erotic Crazy Horse Paris and a revolving main stage with stars like MGM regular, David Copperfield and one of my all time favorites, singer Tom Jones.

I didn’t have time to hit Studio 54 on this trip but I have heard from our Buzz CEO, Jason Royal that Studio 54 is number one on his list of Vegas dance clubs partly because of the great mix of music that they play from and because of the fun, good looking young (but not too young) crowd that 54 attracts. There are many classy and yet casual bars to hang out in at MGM like Centrifuge and Vida with it’s exciting Latin flavored dance party which attract a happy well heeled crowd literally twenty four hours a day. I really loved relaxing in the martini bar Zuri, as well as the accessible and beautifully red, Rouge. I loved that every time we returned to the hotel or our suite even at six in the morning that I could see many smiling faces chatting and drinking at each of these open-to-the-casino lounge spots.

There is a wonderful live lion exhibit in the main casino area where we got the pleasure of seeing some sweet kitties strutting and scratching the trees with their majestic grace in a glass enclosed natural habitat.

The MGM Hospitality!!

MGM Las VegasWhen I travel for business or pleasure, I like to stay for at least a week and really make the hotel my home. It is essential that the people working there be gracious hosts or the entire trip can be ruined by a single negative encounter. Here’s what I like when it comes to fine hotel staff: friendly, down to earth and knowledgeable people who generously do whatever they can to make my stay special.

You won’t find any of the stuffy, snobby attitudes hat you might encounter at a four star hotel at MGM. From the security men who recognized us after our very first night and waved us in to the elevators with a smile, to the spa staff and pool servers, just about every employee I encountered on this trip was about as friendly and genuine as I could desire.

The MGM is a large organization and I had to communicate with several different departments at each point in our stay and the person who really stood out was manager Jill Archunde. Jill has actually worked her way up from the front desk, through the spa to her current position as VP of Operations. Jill had such a nice tone of interest and helpfulness in her voice from the first time we spoke about this piece for Buzz and went out of her way to provide us with everything we needed to make the trip productive and relaxing.

I have to say that it was difficult to leave the MGM, the overall atmosphere there day and night is one of fun, glamour and modern, yet  self effacing  luxury .It is not surprising that AAA selected MGM Grand as one of its 2007 Four Diamond Award recipients. With 5,044 guest rooms and suites, MGM Grand now becomes the world’s largest hotel to hold this respected travel designation. The honor comes after a multi-year evolution that has transformed MGM Grand into the ultimate Las Vegas experience. Offering everything from A-list entertainment and award-winning restaurants to high-energy nightlife and relaxing rejuvenation, MGM Grand is truly a hotspot and home away from home I will visit many times to come.

 

 

Friday, 30 January 2009 18:00

Mandalay Bay’s Mama Mia! with Carol Linnea Johnson

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mamma mia las vegasBetter casting could not have been made than when Carol Linnea Johnson was chosen for the leading role, “Donna Sheridan” in Manday Bay's production of Mamma Mia! Recruited from the original Broadway production, Carol IS “Donna Sheridan”. Carol’s beautiful voice combined with her dreamy looks, and her ability to project fun-heartedness, make the role of “Donna” truly likeable and memorable. Very apparent is the fun Carol has while performing onstage, especially when interacting with co-stars and real life gal pals Vicki Van Tassel and Robin Baxter, who, by the way, were also terrific.   

Other than playing the spandex-clad “Donna Sheridan”, Carol has also performed on Broadway as “Pam” in The Full Monty as well as many Off Broadway productions. Carol has been seen on TV’s Law and Order, Another World and All My Children but admits, “Nothing beats live theatre.”     

   

 Buzz – I thought Mama Mia! was the best. I was blown away. How exciting is it for you to perform in Mama Mia!?  

Carol – You know, Mama Mia! is really unique. That’s the only way I can describe it. I’ve been doing it for a really long time because I started out as the understudy in the Broadway production. Then they asked me to come out here and take over the role. I mean, I was beyond thrilled. “Donna” is like one of the best female characters to play in musical theatre – and she’s modern. There are lots of great women’s roles but the music is so fun to sing and I think the way at the end – you get the, kind of, bonus – the bonus concert at the end…(laughs).

Buzz – Now, were you an ABBA fan before you were in Mama Mia!?

Carol – Probably like most people were in terms of I like “Dancing Queen”, I like “Waterloo”. I liked the ones that you kind of knew. But I also liked – I’ve always really liked movies that have ABBA in them. I really love Muriel’s Wedding. There’s something about ABBA because the costumes are so hilarious, the music’s so fun and it’s so easy to get into. And it’s a little bit kitschy, just kitschy enough to make it fun.

Buzz – And their lyrics are so simple, because I don’t think they spoke English.

Carol – Oh my gosh! And the girls who sang it spoke like NO English. They did it all phonetically. If you listen to it very carefully you could tell – they didn’t have a clue. Benny and Bjorn both spoke fluent English, but, you know…they’re Swedish.

Buzz – Now the one thing that really appealed to me was the chemistry between you, Vicki [Van Tassel], and Robin [Baxter]. You guys were just perfect together. It’s just perfect casting.

Carol – Oh, it is. You know, it’s funny because I had worked with Robin on Broadway because I had taken over the role of “Donna” for a couple months. I was so lucky, because when I got cast in the Broadway production, the woman who I understudied had two personal days a month. But she also had been doing it for a while so she took lots of time off. Near the end of my time there I had been on for like, eight weeks. And Robin Baxter was filling in for “Rosie” who had an injury. I thought she was like, hands down, the most phenomenal person I’ve ever worked with. So when they offered me the role of “Donna” in Las Vegas I actually asked the director to consider Robin for Rosie. “Please, please, please see her for Rosie.” So I begged and begged for them to cast her and they were smart enough to do it. So then I knew Vicki and we were like, “Oh, she sounds great.” Vicki is also phenomenal on and off stage. You believe that we are all very good friends because actually we are very good friends.

Buzz – So you guys pal around afterwards and hang out. You’re like buddies.

Carol – Totally buddies.

Buzz – I think it’s great that you guys performed on the Jerry Lewis telethon. It’s a great cause and it had to be a neat experience.

Carol – Oh, totally. There were 12 members of the cast plus Vicki, Robin and I. It was really exciting. It was very exciting. It was really fun. It almost reminds me – remember whenever you see like old Hollywood movies – or like even now when they show like the back lot and you have people walking around dressed like cowboys and some people are dressed as showgirls. Everyone’s in costume and driving around in golf carts. Well this was a little bit like that. There’s Carrot Top and there we are in spandex and there was like an Asian gymnastic team warming up. It was just really fun.

Buzz – So what is your favorite thing about performing in Mama Mia!?

Carol – (Long, thoughtful pause) I’d have to say  - it’s like a couple things. I feel incredibly lucky as an actor/singer to get to play the role of “Donna” just because it is so satisfying. You get to do it with such wonderful actors, who are not only great performers, but also great people. And then for it to culminate in the last ten minutes of the show and just see how up the audience is – how lifted they are – what a great time they had – it’s just sort of that collective experience. You know that old saying, “You can have it all, you just can’t have it all at the same time?” You sort of feel like for two hours a night, I get to have it all.

Buzz – You know, it’s a Vegas show that you can really take home with you.

Carol – It’s amazing the number of people who will all come out and be like, “Oh my God! This is our third time!” And I’m like, “Oh, have you been to Vegas before?” They’re like, “No! We saw it Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday!” They just keep coming back.  

 

 

 

Besides the music, one of the biggest reasons the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas’ production of Mama Mia! is so successful is, without a doubt, because of its outstanding cast. Yes, the songs are songs are brilliant, the story is fun, and the set is creative, but without talented people – the right talented people – in the show’s key roles, Mama Mia! wouldn’t be the smash hit it is. Mandalay Bay’s Mama Mia! made sure the best possible personnel were assembled from the show’s main characters to the ensemble. Kudos to the casting director!

Sunday, 26 October 2008 19:00

Inside Vegas' Luxor Hotel & Casino

Written by

Luxor

 

 

Okay, I’m going to give you the skinny on the Luxor hotel and Casino from top to bottom. The Luxor is the pyramid shaped casino everyone recognizes and it sits right on the main strip. When I go to Vegas for work or vacation I usually pick my hotel based on three factors: the pool and spa (very important to me because I spend time there every day), the room itself and the restaurant choices.
 

The Rooms:
 
So let’s start with the rooms at the Luxor. I stayed in an East Tower room with two queen beds. The Tower rooms are considered luxury rooms and are slightly more expensive than the Pyramid rooms but it is worth it, and I’ll tell you why: They are newer and bigger than the pyramid rooms and have floor to ceiling windows, which let in much-needed light. The Tower rooms have their own check-in desk and VIP services, which save a lot of time checking in and replacing room keys etc. The pyramid rooms seemed to have a really long line for check-in all the time. When I get in tired from a flight nothing would tick me off more than to have to waste an hour or more standing in line to get my room. Also, the Tower rooms have their own bank of elevators - normal straight up and down elevators, not the inclinators that I have heard make people dizzy and again produce wait times to get to your room. The room itself was nicely appointed with a gold color scheme and a very nice sunken bathtub, which I used for bubble baths every night of my stay. Another nice thing about the Tower rooms is that they give you bath amenities from the spa. It’s really nice to have spa quality shampoos, lotions and shower gel to try out each night.

 


Here’s the bad though - in the picture of the Tower rooms on the Luxor website, the beds appear to have very nice pillow top bedding and down comforters and many pillows just like at MGM Grand, a sister property. The reality was a thin, yucky bedspread, two small pillows and thin scratchy cotton sheets (I had to press housekeeping for more pillows to prop up a bad knee). Now for the price overall, this was a very nice room and I highly recommend it to young people who just need a nice enough place to crash while they party the strip but this one bad bed factor would prohibit me from staying at The Luxor again. When I get to my room after a 15-hour day, I have to have a pillow top mattress and quality bedding to recuperate in.
 
Luxor Hotel and Casino

The Pool:

 

The pools at the Luxor were excellent. They are nicely landscaped with lots of sunshine and several pools to choose from. The main pool had several powerful jets that you could stand under and get a really good back massage. If you balance well on a floatie, you can get a full body massage! The waitresses were friendly and the bathrooms clean. My first day there, Luxor headliner Criss Angel sat just a few chairs away from me giving notes to his assistant which was fun to see. The best thing about the pool was the close proximity to our room; instead of a long walk through a crowded casino in your bikini and shorts, I was able to stumble out of bed, take one elevator and literally be outside within three minutes. There were plenty of chairs and cabanas, never any problem finding a nice place to settle even on busy days. At night I like to go out to the pool and relax with a cigarette and the Luxor pool allows this with security patrols and well-lit areas with benches and chairs.
 


The Restaurants:

The Luxor has several nice restaurants to choose from. Check our review of Fusia, in this issue, which has superb service and delicious seafood and sushi. The Steak house was closed while we were there so they also had several excellent meat dishes to choose from. When I’m in Vegas and not reviewing an upscale restaurant, I have to depend on the less expensive and quicker options they have available. The Luxor really takes care of this by having a clean, nicely lit food court with a lot of choices like pizza and McDonalds. Also, their 24-hour Café is one of the best I have eaten at. It sits right in the middle of the casino so you can watch the action while you eat and it had reasonably priced and well-prepared options like the Salmon Pancake (which had lox served over poached eggs on a bed of potato pancakes), it was always fresh. Also, their homemade chicken soup was really homemade and a meal in itself.
 

LuxorThe Clubs and Entertainment:
 

The Luxor has two of the most popular clubs right now. The Cathouse is a really nice, inviting, and surprisingly small venue with cool music and very hot waitresses. The vibe was mellow and funky the night I hung out there and the host was an absolute doll to me- very friendly and welcoming. I didn’t have time to visit LAX on this visit but the lines there were thick with well-dressed twenty-somethings, so it is still very popular and your chance of bumping into a celebrity like Criss Angel or the cast of  “The Hills” who I saw milling around the lobby, are quite high.


 

 

 

Criss Angel and Carrot Top are the resident entertainers and both have excellent shows. Criss Angel is currently counting down to the opening of his new Cirque show “Believe”, which should be a huge attraction and I’m sure a spectacular show like all the Cirque Du Soleil productions.

Check out my interview and arm wrestling match with Carrot Top from last year at www.Buzznews.TV for a taste of Carrot Top’s quirky humor. Carrot Top’s show is regularly sold out with good reason. He delivers a nonstop two hours of solid laughter, a little racy but not gross, and I have only heard people coming out of the show saying great things about how fun it was and how surprised they were at the quality of his humor.

The Spa:
 
The spa at Luxor was pretty nice and is located right off the pool. The Jacuzzi has some shoulder massaging waterfalls in it and a lovely blue and gold tile décor. The steam room is large and also has gold walls and soft lighting.  I loved the cappuccino machine for a quick wakeup after spa time and the selection of chilled fruit juices and fruit. The one complaint I had about the spa is that the last two hours of operation they shut down the ice towel service and start to shut down the spa. They do charge less if you get there after six, but that’s the only time I can use the spa, between my pool time and dinner time and I would much rather pay full price than have to sit in a hot sauna or Jacuz
zi with no cold towels. I didn’t have time to sample and review their massage service this trip but they do have a nice menu of massages that are not too expensive. Luxor Hotel and Casino
 


VIP Services:
 
The VIP services at Luxor were good. One day my associate had a toothache and they were very nice about helping him find a local dentist.
My own fabulous VIP host Director of Hotel Operations at The MGM Grand, Jill Archunde, who originally arranged this review visit for Buzz came in on her day off to help us with our comps and check out.
 

To sum up, if you are looking for a fun, youthful casino to hang out in, a sunny pool and a basic room to crash each night, The Luxor is an excellent value - one of the best on the strip. If you are a more mature luxury-seeking traveler, you can opt for the high-end suites to get the quality you are seeking while still enjoying the relatively small boutique hotel feel of the Luxor in the midst of young Vegas partiers.

 

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