The fact that Wayne Newton has joined the ever-increasing Reality tv fare, does this mean that something has been missing? A contest or elimination? No, most reality shows have some kind of contest or elimination. Talent? No, where some shows seem to lack talent, others have provided it in one way or another. A city that never sleeps? No, we’ve got The Apprentice in NYC. A chance for someone rich and famous to become more rich and famous? No, that’s been done. A host with a large-ego and lacquered-hair? No, we have that, too. So what does this show offer, that’s completely new and different? In quick judgment, nothing, but nonetheless, I am mysteriously drawn to Wayne Newton‘s charisma, or perhaps it’s the spotlight that follows him around…I’m drawn to him like a moth to a flame. I’ve never seen his show in Vegas, and my knowledge of him consists of some basics: my parents had one of his albums in the 50’s, I recall seeing him once on I Love Lucy milking a cow, I know he loves dogs and horses, and there were those pesky Mafia rumors once upon a time (by the way, I’m considering doing an undercarriage sweep of my car in the mornings if I don’t like the show and decide to be honest about it). The motto of the show is “the pain, the joy, the dream to be the best to perform to win it all,” sounds like a good motto to me, albeit a long one.
Like a Moth to a Flame
We are shown a general overview of what to expect and are told one contestant will win the prize of appearing in Newton’s Vegas show, and a one-year contract to headline at the Las Vegas Hilton, worth over $1 million. During the auditions, they will be living in 15,000 sq. ft. of opulent high-roller heaven. As the camera pans the suite, I am wondering if Wayne and Trump share the same decorator, as they both seem to enjoy glitzy, gaudy, gold stuff.
With that, we are introduced to the contestants:
Nathan Burton- illusionist (could he be the long-lost brother of Lance?), wants to be the biggest magician there is.
Dave - comic, originally from Boston, has his family pulling for him.
Theresa - singer, from Canyon Country, Calif. (coincidentally close to me), actress, dancer. Marla tells us she can see her playing Snow White at Disneyland.
Joe - prop comic (do we really need another Carrot Top?), from Las Vegas, physical comic, mom raised him, dad wasn’t around, and he’ll be doing it for his daughter.
Delisco - singer, New York, songwriter, poet, dancer, harmonica player, has God on his side.
Jacquie - singer, Los Angeles, plays guitar, is versatile, has self doubt.
Sarah Darling - singer, Nashville, country-western, Joe thinks she’s going to be a star. She informs everyone they are to call her Sarah Darling.
Marla - comic, New York, has always wanted to play Vegas.
Paul - singer, Westbury, New York, vocalist/vocal percussionist/improv comedian/marshal arts teacher/gymnast/actor/whatever you want him to be. Since he kind of bugs me, I want him to be gone.
Jennifer - singer, Las Vegas, she’s strong and says, “bring it on."
We see snippets of the not-a-chance-in-hell tryouts…a Tiny Tim wannabe, a Minnie Pearl wannabe, think of the first few shows of American Idol, and you get the impression. Let’s just say, there were a lot of performers with big chests and big hair, and those were the males.
An ominous voice is heard overhead, commanding these final 10 to go to the stage. As they walk onto the stage, Joe is confused, the music is dramatic, and a spotlight comes on to light up Mr. Newton in the audience. They are properly awed and surprised by his presence, as he informs them they were selected from thousands of auditions.
Wayne introduces his trusted confidants, Scotty Alexander, (for those Apprentice fans out there, his “George“), who is a singer, and Wayne’s orchestra leader, and Frances Lee, an award-winning singer, who has been with him over 20 years (again, Apprentice fans, his “Carolyn”). With their help, he will decide who makes the cut each week, and who goes home. During the many years he’s performed, he’s realized the importance of being able to improvise at a moment’s notice, and he begins to tell a story where he was in Iraq for a hand-shaking tour of 8,000 troops. It seems the troops were expecting a show, so Wayne and his entourage ended up putting on a show for 1½ hours, even though they didn’t have microphones, or musicians. He believes it’s one of the best shows he’s ever done in his life. I’m at a loss, as to what they did, or how they did it exactly, because it’s not explained, but by now, I’m so infatuated with him….I BELIEVE!
The two teams are: Red Team: Sarah, Jennifer, Delisco, David and Joe.
Black - Marla, Jacquie, Theresa, Paul and Nathan.
They will need to work together, and he wants to observe their attitudes, drive and determination. There will be a full orchestra behind them to back them up, but they will only have one hour to put together the show, and the one hour begins NOW.
Marla says she’s devastated, as she first informs us she feels like a contestant on Survivor, and the boat took off without her. Then she also likens the process to being on the Titanic and not having a chance to get to a life boat. I think she has some unresolved boat issues, and now I have a sinking feeling, too, especially when I realize she’s having trouble remembering her teammates’ names. Soon everyone begins to look a little panicked, as they realize the scope of what they are expected to do.
To determine which team goes first, do they pick a number between 1 and 10? Draw straws? Flip a coin? No, this is Vegas, Baby…they will spin a roulette wheel, of course! Black team goes first.
You’re On in 60 Minutes
After a commercial break we are treated to a bit of wisdom from the Big Man. Tonight’s morsel of wisdom: there are so many times in one’s career where you’re not prepared, you haven’t run the song with the band, you have to be concerned with pacing, you have to be concerned about keeping the audience a part of what you’re doing. Wow. I always thought part of what makes a professional, is that you are prepared and well-rehearsed. I thought that’s what we pay those high prices for when we go to see the professionals do their thing. Guess not. I’m not so sure Wayne should have told us that…I’ll definitely be watching shows from a completely different perspective from now on.
Black team is up first. Although Jacquie and Theresa originally were going to perform a song together, at the last minute they decide to perform separately. This puts everyone in a tailspin from the flip-flopping that they are doing. Theresa begins the show with the Bonnie Raitt song, “Let’s Give ‘Em Something to Talk About”, while wearing teal blue pants, a red boa, and black halter top. The camera makes sure we notice the extra microphone sitting on the stand in the center of the stage. Each contestant is holding a portable mic, so it’s apparent, this extra mic is simply in the way. Marla is up next as she entertains the audience with her comic genius. She comes on stage asking the audience to give a round of applause for Jacquie, the only problem is, Theresa is the one who is leaving the stage. Then, she starts her act by telling a gynecology joke. Yeah I don’t know about you ladies, but I just can’t get enough gynecology jokes, not to mention, you can almost see the men in the audience physically squirming. Marla thinks she did a damn good job holding the show together and keeping the show moving…yeah, I was moved all right. I was moved to get up and leave the room, but wait I can’t…I’m recapping…I have to watch her. She then introduces Paul who comes out doing his vocal percussions. He pfffts, and fiffffts into the microphone, and then does a pretty impressive back flip. His vocal percussions don’t impress me, but I liked the back flip. Joe thinks Paul blew them all away. I make a mental note to question Joe’s opinions from now on. Next, we have Nathan, the magician, who walks to center stage and brings with him a large sketchpad and marker where he proceeds to draw a picture of a bowling ball, then presto change-o, a bowling ball literally falls from the sketchpad onto the floor with a thud, and the one he drew is no longer on the paper. The audience loves it, as do I. He tells us that’s not his strongest material…I hold out big hope for him. Right now he’s got my vote, for the non-singing entertainer. Next up is Jacquie and she sings, Whitney Houston’s classic, “I’m Every Woman”. She’s also sporting a boa, and I begin to wonder if this isn’t standard wardrobe for Las Vegas. Maybe this is one of those secrets you don’t know about if you’re not in the business. She does have a beautiful voice, though, so I have hope for her, too. She is soon joined by the entire team, as they come on stage singing along with her. Marla gets the audience to clap along by doing that over-exaggerated clapping motion. They cut to the audience, and I see she convinced five people to join her. The camera pans over to Paul, who is now wearing a black sequin dress and the required boa. Wow, even men seem to know about the power of the boa, how could I not be aware of this phenomenon? They dance off stage and are feeling pretty good about their performances. Next up, Red Team.
Dave is his team’s host, and the curtain opens before his team is quite ready, so he has to get it together quickly. His first joke doesn’t go over too well, but his second, regarding the sizing of bras is actually pretty funny, and the audience and I laugh. He then does a pretty good impression of Robert DeNiro, which the audience and Marla seem to enjoy. Next he introduces Sarah Darling. As she sings “Everything I Am,” I notice an absolute glimmer of fear in her eyes, but she eventually seems to relax, and she has a beautiful voice, too, although it’s apparent she didn’t get the memo regarding the importance of wearing a boa. Next up is Delisco, and he informs us after the fact that he didn’t know the words very well to his song, but he settles in nicely and sings, “Drift Away” with Sarah Darling. Sara Darling fumbled a few times (obviously didn’t know when Delisco was going to be singing/not singing), but they get through it. Heck, according to Wayne, lots of performers aren’t prepared, so I’m not too bothered by this anyway. Joe introduces Jennifer, and she comes on stage singing “Fever,” while dragging a chair behind her…not a Lazy Boy, but one of those chrome, vinyl-seated kind of chairs you see in conference rooms. Oh, and she’s got her boa, too. Joe tells us he couldn’t perform his act (I‘m not sure I understand why), so he was sitting in the front row of the audience, and Jennifer seductively calls him up on stage, as if he’s just some guy in the audience. She sits him down in the chair, then proceeds to sit on his lap singing to him. He produces some goofy facial expressions, and the audience seems to get a kick out of it. They are joined on stage by their teammates and they all begin singing, “Dancing in the Streets”. Jennifer needs some fine-tuning on singing into a microphone, but she, Delisco and Sarah Darling sing well together, as Joe and Dave trade off break dancing. Sarah Darling was a little overshadowed by Jennifer and Delisco, but considering they were virtual strangers an hour ago, it was impressive. Even the Black Team thought they had done a great job.
Get the Hook - Someone’s Going Home
We cut to Wayne and his cohorts. Scotty tells Wayne that Jacquie and Theresa decided at the last minute to change their act, and not tell their teammates. Wayne points out that they left an unused mic and stand, center stage, during the entire act. This bothers him tremendously, and he also points out the other team had a better pace about them. They have made their decision, and the contestants are brought on stage. They line up, and about one foot in front of each of them, an individual spotlight shines down in a bright circle.
Wayne stands, and addresses the group. He asks the Red Team to step forward and says he appreciates their hard work, and that he thinks they’re incredible. His only critique is they missed the opening cue. The Black Team is asked to step forward. He tells them he didn’t get a “team” feeling from them. He felt they were more concerned about their individual performances, and told them how tacky it was to leave the unused mic and stand in the middle of the stage, even pointing out it got in their way. He goes on further saying, in every performance there has to be something memorable that an audience wants to return and see again, and he didn’t see such a thing in their act. He tells the Red Team to step back, which he clarifies to mean, none of them will be cut tonight. They breathe a sigh of relief and embrace in a group hug.
He tells Jacquie she took command of the stage, he feels nothing that happened bothered her in a negative way. She is allowed to step back and be safe. Nathan tried to keep his team focused, and Wayne considers that a noble effort. He is allowed to step back out of the spotlight, and he’s safe. Wayne says Paul tried to pull his team together at the end, and he’s safe. Theresa’s flip-flopping as to whether to sing with Jacquie or alone, left her team unable to plan properly for the show. Marla’s job as emcee was to hold the team together. He reminds her she called Theresa “Jacquie,” and seemed unsure of herself on stage. Apparently, in rehearsal she couldn’t focus on which material to use and focused more on her nervous energy, than problem solving. Then dramatically he says, “Theresa?” “you may step back.” Wayne tells Marla (and the others) two fellows auditioned for Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour, and neither one was chosen. One was Elvis Presley, and the other? Mick Jagger? John Lennon, Bill Cosby? No, of course, it was Wayne Newton. It’s obvious he’s trying to soften the blow that heads toward Marla. At the last second, he somewhat cruelly offers Marla one more chance to entertain him. She gives a half-concerted effort of a soft-shoe tap dance, and begins to beg him to give her one more chance. She quickly runs out of gas, though, and although Joe and Nathan advise she should have kept talking, she eventually stands there waiting for the inevitable. Wayne laughs, but here it is, the big Wayne-Newton-Entertainer-dismissal line I‘ve been waiting for. Will it be “Danke shoen, but no danke shoen? “ How about, “Get the hell off my stage?” No, it is simply, “Marla, the party’s over, you’re not The Entertainer.” She walks off stage, down the stairs, and out the back door.
The others are informed they will now be allowed to enter the 15,000 sq. ft. penthouse suite where they will be residing together. There will be a party for the winning team, only. (It sucks to be the Black Team.) They all go upstairs, running from room to room, and Delisco promptly throws himself on a posh bed. Segue to poor Marla, who is wandering the streets at night alone (well, except for the cameramen and sound men) disappearing into the darkness, perhaps looking for that elusive, but powerful boa.
Let Them Entertain Us
Snippets of future shows promise talent, tears and tormented contestants. Viva Las Vegas, Baby!
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