From: Norm Johnson
For: Column 4-12-2016
DIAMONDFEST will kick off a three day engagement on Thursday (April 21) through Saturday (April 23) at the Suncoast Hotel. The special event is the brainchild of Producer/Director/Promoter Steve Tatone, a longtime "DIAMONDHEAD", in honor of Neil Diamond's music first hitting the charts 50-years ago in 1966, with Las Vegas’s own Neil Diamond tribute artist, Rob Garrett featured thoughout.
The entire event is built around the premiere of Steve's third independent motion picture entitled DIAMOND MOUNTAIN - a well-made documentary that follows 13 Neil Diamond tribute acts of various levels and from four continents. Aside from the obvious influence that Diamond's music has had on each performer, the film will also zero in on the trials and tribulations that each performer had to endure while breaking into the Tribute Artist/Band industry.
Being the Vegas 'Neil' for 21 years, as well as a long time booking agent in the tribute industry, Rob Garrett certainly get his share of quality screen time in the movie but the background stories on the other guys are very interesting whether you are a Diamond fan or not. The premiere will be held in the Suncoast 'Century' theaters on Thursday, April 21 beginning with a red carpet photo op at 6:00 PM and then the showing of the movie at 7:00 PM. The public is invited on a first come, first serve basis and priority seating (and entry) will be given to those who have purchased VIP tickets for any of the other events happening throughout the weekend. The movie will be followed by a question and answer session with Director/Producer Steve Tatone scheduled for 9 PM.
Afterwards there will be a "Producer's Cocktail Party" hosted by the "IAISND.com" Neil Diamond online Fan organization where VIP Patrons will enjoy the opportunity to meet, take pics and schmooze with the Cast & other Special Guests. The latter is the first event which actually requires you to purchase a ticket. For that matter, just about all the remaining events require a purchased ticket as well. There are Diamond themed events happening throughout the entire weekend including an auction benefiting "Our Military Kids" and three big concerts spearheaded by the popular Las Vegas based production show, AMERICAN TRILOGY ('Sinatra', 'Presley', 'Diamond') on Friday, April 22nd which just so happens to have been written and directed by Garrett
For more information on AMERICAN TRILOGY, just click here: www.broadwayworld.com/las-vegas/regional/AMERICAN-TRILOGY-162118. Following the 'Trilogy' show, a post-show 'meet & greet' will be held in Salvatore's restaurant inside the Suncoast (everyone is invited to this). For those interested, there will be a second concert that same evening at 10:00 p.m. featuring Curtis Di Domizio's REAL DIAMOND BAND - a notable Neil Diamond tribute band from the Philadelphia area. On April 23 there will be a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. honoring King Errisson, Diamond's long time, renowned, percussionist. Scheduled to appear at this event are several other members of Diamond's band including Ron Tutt (yep THAT same Ronnie Tutt who played for Elvis from 1969-1977) and Tom Hensley (Neil's long time pianist) who will be entertaining us with their own little 4-piece combo which they call the "Diamondville Polka Scholar's". Then at 7 PM that same evening cometh the DIAMOND MOUNTAIN CAST CONCERT headed up by Kenny LaBelle's THE DIAMOND COLLECTION BAND from West Springfield, Massachusetts.
Co-Starring in the epic Finale ("cast") Concert on Saturday night are San Francisco's Randy Cordeiro from Super Diamond, Branson's Keith Allynn, Chicago's Denny Svehla, Orlando's Donn Lamkin, the UK's Bob Drury, BC Canada's Jason Scott, Santiago, Chile's Carlos Picasso Diamond Tribute, Nashville's Black Neil Diamond Tribute Singer Theron Denson, Charlotte's Kyle Patrick Cummings, Philly's Curtis Di Domizio, West Springfield MA's Kenny LaBelle & some Vegas guy who calls himself the "King of Diamonds," Rob Garrett. The concert will also include the amazing Las Vegas Mass Choir, King Errisson, and hopefully a few other Surprise Guest Stars.
THIS AND THAT QUICKLY:
Surely you followed the real-life drama of Michelle Knight who, in 2002, was abducted by Ariel Castro and finally rescued from his Tremont home after spending 11 years in captivity.
Leave it to Cleveland-born playwright Rajiv Joseph to find poetry in such pathology.
His “Mr. Wolf” revolves around a 15-year-old girl who, when she was three, was abducted and hidden from the world by an astronomer who believes she can unravel the mysteries of the infinite expanses of the universe. By doing so, she will find God and save Humankind.
Rather than being mistreated, Theresa’s intelligence and inquisitive nature are nurtured by her abductor, Mr. Wolf, who sees her as a prodigy and a prophet. Equal parts Stockholm syndrome and genuine affection forge Theresa’s attachment to Mr. Wolf, which is all-encompassing and, after 12 years of isolation, all that she knows.
A play like this coming from Rajiv Joseph is no surprise, for he has a remarkable proclivity for examining big-ticket issues by way of small-scale stories and unlikely spokespeople.
In “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” – a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist – he exposed the self-destructive nature of the human species by examining the atrocities of the Gulf War and giving voice to a philosophizing feline. His “Guards at the Taj” offered an existential treatise on the human costs of Man’s self-aggrandizement, delivered by two simple-minded 17th century sentries at the Taj Mahal.
In “Mr. Wolf,” the passionate pursuit of astronomy and the infinite possibilities of the universe are counterbalanced by the comparatively infinitesimal heartache of a parent losing a child and the astronomical odds of finding her alive after all these years.
Find her they do and after some unsavory revelations about Mr. Wolf’s quest for the one true prophet, the story turns its attention to psychological and spiritual healing. The scene’s involving Theresa and her parents’ adjustment to their reunification are as tenderly conceived, brilliantly constructed, and emotionally engaging as the ones that came before.
The staging for Cleveland Play House production of “Mr. Wolf,” which is the centerpiece of the CPH’s 2016 New Ground Theatre Festival, is sparse, so as to keep our focus on the story and less on the storytelling.
However, director Giovanna Sardelli employs plenty of technological bells and whistles – such as a receding set piece and a rising platform (Timothy R. Mackabee), overtly dramatic lighting (Gina Scherr), and haunting sound design (Daniel Kluger) – to underscore the cold loneliness that resides in the vastness of the space Theresa and Mr. Wolf contemplate, in the isolation of her captivity, in the world of a father who is desperately searching for his child, and in the soul of a mother who has given up hope. The effect is chilling and powerful.
Sardelli delivers a cast whose acting and listening skills are so exceptional that they make it hard to separate the writing from its on-stage rendering or shift attention to admire the stagecraft surrounding them.
From left John De Lancie (Mr. Wolf) and Juliet Brett (Theresa)
Juliet Brett – barefoot and a bundle of autistic tendencies, genius eccentricities and sheer intensity – is an incredible, surprisingly endearing Theresa. Her fingers twitch as if engaged in phantom activities. Her eyes, when not avoiding contact, demand it. And her analytical pattern of speech shows no signs of long repressed and now-foreign emotions, except when Mr. Wolf introduces her to new life experiences and then in the most delightful manner.
John de Lancie, who originated the role of Mr. Wolf in last year’s world premiere at South Coast Repertory in California, anchors this production as well. Never does his Mr. Wolf show anything but genuine affection for his misappropriated mentee and dedication toward their mission, despite an undercurrent to the contrary. Which is a fascinating choice by de Lancie and Sardelli. And when Theresa sees Mr. Wolf’s face on the detective who rescues her and the doctor who then examines her, de Lancie manages to be those people but with subtle traces of Mr. Wolf in the mix.
Theresa’s father, mother and step-mother are all people damaged by the trauma of losing a child. But Todd Cerveris, Rebecca Brooksher and Jessica Dickey create rich and complicated characters above and beyond this plot point. Their pain from Theresa’s absence is convincing, but the resultant dysfunction and often comical awkwardness upon her return is remarkable.
Michelle Knight’s dramatic story, which has since been turned into a Lifetime Channel made-for-TV movie, is a fear-inducing survivor’s tale about the evil that lurks in the heart of Man. Joseph’s imaginative “Mr. Wolf” is certainly more uplifting. And by setting its sights on the cosmos and our place in the universe, it is significantly more thought-provoking.
Not all UFOs look like the classic flying saucers that we all know from sci-fi classics and B-movies. In fact, some of these alien spacecraft allegedly appear in all shapes and sizes according to eyewitnesses. One of the most enduring of these alternative designs is the triangular UFO, the subject of our next installment in the 2016 Distinguished Lecture Series.
On Saturday, April 30, starting at 6:00 PM with an informal meet and greet, the National Atomic Testing Museum, 755 East Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV 89119, will be hosting a special presentation from experienced UFO investigator and researcher David Marler. Marler, who has been featured in UFO documentaries seen on the Discovery Channel and Smithsonian Channel, will be exploring the mysteries of triangular UFOs during his 7:00 p.m. talk. Complementary light refreshments and snacks will be served to guests. Please RSVP by calling (702) 794-5151. You can also ask about upcoming events and the benefits of Museum Membership!
Well, gang, that’s about it once again. I’m outa here!