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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

MY KIND OF SHOW: BAZ - STAR CROSSED LOVE at the Venetian Las Vegas

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." 
                                                     - the song Nature Boy by eden ahbez

I am a fan of the Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. Have been for years, citing the film Moulin Rouge as one of my all-time favorites.

And so it was with a real degree of excitement we discovered a (relatively) new show in Las Vegas built upon the worlds that Baz has created for his various films: BAZ - STAR CROSSED LOVE.

Using the music from his films, and characterizations based upon his pro- and antagonists, the production is a very large, open example of pushing the envelope for a Vegas stage production.

Fortunately for audiences, the Las Vegas stage experience has reached adulthood - the prediction of which many watchers in the 1970s and '80s would have openly ridiculed. But with the arrival of Cirque du Soleil in 1993, followed by Blue Man Group and a variety of transplanted Broadway productions (Spamalot, Avenue Q, the Jersey Boys), Las Vegas has become perhaps the second leg of challenging and/or original American stage production after Broadway. Certainly the money is there.

But the beautiful thing about it is that Vegas production teams seem to be willing to stretch themselves and put together shows which are a far cry from the glitzy glamor extravaganzas of the past. Today's productions are original and approach the audience with something new and challenging.

BAZ, now playing at the Venetian Hotel and Casino, is such a production.

The theater is arranged in such a way that the stage spills down into the audience, essentially putting the people in the front part of the theater in the show itself. The actors cavort around the tables as if you're at the club which forms the main "set" for the show. To add to the impression, a handful of tables are on the stage itself, blurring the line of the proscenium completely, pulling the audience quite literally into the story before the very first notes are sung.

The actors are top professionals, and bring the characters from Luhrmann's productions a genuine humanity as they tell the triple doomed-love stories of Romeo and Juliet (from the film of the same name), Satine and Christian (Moulin Rouge), and Satie and Jake (from The Great Gatsby), all of which is hosted by "The Maestro" (essentially Harold Zidler from Moulin). The three couples form the basis for the storyline, which jumps from one time period to another, both musically and visually. And yet completely tied together.

(If that hasn't confused you enough, let me say this: like the films of Baz Luhrmann themselves, BAZ is an experience you simply have to let wash over you until the various pieces begin to coalesce and make sense. By the end of the production you'll have it, but the opening scene can be a bit of a sensory overload. It's a good thing and just go with it.)

Vocally the cast is spectacular, with the seven leads performing beautifully together and in their solos. The backup band is excellent and it's a nice thing to see them onstage and getting some credit for their skills.

And the dancing. Wow. The dancing. All of the primaries are skilled terpsichoreans, but the ballroom couple - which is how I've come to refer to them - is extraordinary. My wife and I met many years ago as members of the professional ballroom world. (Our wedding waltz was choreographed by the man who was, at the time, national ballroom champion.) So we know our stuff when it comes to the sort of thing you may recognize from Dancing with the Stars.

The ballroom couple in BAZ are the real deal, by which I mean they are clearly experienced and trained in ballroom, not dancers from some other forms of dance who are going through ballroom steps. (At one point one of the other cast members joins in a routine, and the difference is obvious. He is very good, but lacks the extra snap of a trained latin dancer.)

All in all, we were stunned by the wonderful evening and have to highly recommend that anyone heading to Las Vegas think seriously about seeing this show. It's different. It's fun. It's stylish. It's certainly worthy of your hard-earned cash (in ways the slot machines are not). It really is a "must see", to use an entirely overworked phrase. But it is.

Recommendation is to sit at one of the proscenium tables, not on the stage itself. Get a glass of champagne (very pricey) and just let the whole thing wash over you like a tide. It's an experience, not just a show, so treat it like one.

BAZ is a strikingly well done production which deserves much more attention outside of Las Vegas than it seems to be receiving. Let's hope it catches on.

(All photographs were permitted and encouraged by the production before the show began.)


  1. I've seen this show 29 times now (I live in Vegas) and I cannot wait until my 30th time (and beyond)!

  2. Wow! I can imagine doing that, so hats off to you Jim! It's a very special production and I certainly plan on seeing it again. Glad you liked it too! Thanks for commenting.