Saturday, May 17, 2008

Experiencing Fremont Street

(Originally posted on January 13, 2008)

The Vegas Vibe

Having lived in Las Vegas for more than 8 years, I've managed to visit downtown infrequently. We ate at Binion's Chinese restaurant a few years ago, and the folks who were in the casino and general area were not the type of people we usually "hang out" with.

A new attitude

The Golden Nugget has a show playing in their showroom called "Defending the Caveman" and based on the fact this show has some really good buzz, we decided to attend. I must admit we had a terrific time and downtown Las Vegas was a lot of fun.

A carnival atmosphere

OK, if you're going to be on Fremont Street at night, make sure to get there before the "hour." The overhead canopy is four blocks long, 90 feet wide and has 12.5 million LED bulbs. They have 7 shows a night (a different one each hour) from 6pm to midnight. Timing is everything and we got there at 8:10 and left at 10:30 and didn't get to see any of the shows, but we'll be back.

At first, it's hard to pin down what you're feeling as you walk through this open, yet covered mall. Then it hits you, it's a carnival. Music blaring, people drinking, kids running around, lots of street vendors, a jazz saxophone player who is incredible, mini-bike riders defying gravity and collisions in a giant, hollow sphere, and tons and tons of people. Honestly, it's a great, fun place to be. If nothing else, people watching is terrific.

The Nugget

Going to see this show gave us the opportunity to see The Golden Nugget Hotel up close and personal. I'd rate this place a 10. It is immaculately clean, minimally smoky and very classy with an Old Vegas feel, rather than the Strip Disneyland version of what Las Vegas has become.

One of the most impressive features of the hotel is the pool area. The hotel is built around the pool, and even though you can't swim past 5pm (the heated pool is open year-round), the bar at the pool is busy (even at 10:30 on a chilly night) and the sights are awesome.

The center of the pool is "The Tank", a 200,000 gallon shark tank, with a three-story water slide that goes THROUGH the tank. Tons of chaises, oversized sofas, loveseats, underwater chaises, outside table games to gamble on during the day, this place has it all.

Inside, the hotel is elegant with marble, dark woods, crystal chandeliers, fresh flowers. Really, they have not missed one detail. But I digress, because we only came to see the show (or so we thought).

A one-man show (and a ghost, too)

If you're in a relationship that is beyond a year or more, I think you'll relate to "Defending the Caveman". Whether you're a man or woman, this is a very funny, insightful show into relationships that has a great point of view. Performed by Kevin Burke, you are invited to participate in the show, rather than just listen to a monologue.

I give Kevin high marks for performing a "scripted" show while asking folks for input that turns the show into semi-improv. We had a heckler in our audience who was handled perfectly, and without demeaning or insulting him (not an easy thing to do).

For a 75 minute show, there are plenty of laughs and you walk out with a greater appreciation of your better half. The show has been playing since 1991 around the country and is the longest running solo play in Broadway history. However, it's totally up-to-date as far as cultural references, so it never felt dated.

The showroom itself is state-of-the-art, the set is great and the sound system is also top-notch. However, the lighting had ideas of its own. In fact, at one point, the lights totally went out except for Kevin's spotlight. He broke character, started laughing and told the audience a story that his dressing room was built for Frank Sinatra and is exactly the same as when Frank used it.

As Kevin tells it, Sinatra is haunting the place as he has personally experienced some unexplained antics in the dressing room. Even that part of the show was entertaining, and makes you appreciate a live show versus two hours of acrobats and new age music.

Overall, I highly recommend this show, The Golden Nugget and the entire Fremont Street experience. Not your typical Saturday night in Las Vegas. We'll definitely be back (maybe to see Rich Little, who's also performing at the same hotel) and see some of the light shows outside.

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