Courtesy of Eldorado Showroom

No matter any difficulties pronouncing Benise's name, you'll likely enjoy the show he and a host of other performers put on at the Eldorado in Reno.

Mel Shields: Benise signs on for quite a show at the Eldorado

Published: Friday, Feb. 24, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 11TICKET

In an unprecedented booking, the Eldorado has centered a long-running show on a single artist. Usually the showroom is occupied by cirque-style productions or revivals of musical comedies, but the marquee now reads "Benise: Nights of Fire."

Perhaps the booking is not as bold as might appear to those unaware of who Benise (pronounced Buh-nes-say) is. The guitarist has had two PBS specials, "The Spanish Guitar" and "Nights of Fire" (an Emmy winner).

He parlayed his popularity as a street performer in Los Angeles into self- promoted concerts, steadily building a loyal following while along the way attracting other musicians and dancers. His performances grew in size and scope with astonishing speed for any artist. He has released eight albums and three DVDs.

"Nights of Fire" is a 90-minute presentation of world music with a heavy emphasis on the Latin American. At the center is the tall, long-haired and charismatic Benise himself, a natural performer who knows when to dazzle with a smile and when to caress his guitar with sensuality. His attractiveness to most of the women in the audience is apparent and he knows how to use it, but does so with unaffectedness. Best of all, he clearly enjoys playing his music, and that joy spreads.

The show is full of dance as well. A superior troupe has mastered all forms of Latin choreography, from salsa to samba to flamenco. Toss in some African tribal rhythms and other styles Benise has picked up from his world travels, and the result is one of the best- produced and -performed shows to hit Reno in a long time.

Don't let the beginning fool you. That music from "Carmina Burana," usually associated with dark happenings (the music was used in "The Omen") and those figures in dark robes bearing candles will soon be not monks but caped dancers, and the music will be not Carl Orff but Led Zep.

The audience is then taken on a world tour of sorts, starting in India with the musicians handling a sitar as well as a guitar and the dancers moving beyond belly dance to full-body- undulation. Throughout, the choreography of Alexandre Magno shows wit and diversity, never going exactly where one would suspect.

This is not a show where there is a flamenco section, and then a tango section, and so forth. Magno has choreographed for Madonna, Yanni, Britney Spears and Ballet Hispanico, among others, and he knows theatrical flourishes.

Benise's arrangements are also full of wit and surprise. The Spanish version of "Hotel California" is a genuine crowd pleaser, Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concerto Aranjuez" gets a bit of new styling, and the final quintet is a rouser. Throughout, the audience feels downright constrained by the seats it occupies, yearning to turn the theater into a dance hall of its own.

Benise is one of those performers who also proves to be generous. Ample stage time is given to his supporting musicians, especially the extremely talented Omar Lopez, whose violin playing is virtuosic.

The dancers are top-tier, as well.

The intimacy of the jewel-box Eldorado Showroom only makes it all the better. (8 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays; 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays; and 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, through April 1; 345 N. Virginia St. in Reno; $19.95, $29.95, $34.95, $39.95; 800-648-5966 or

Elsewhere this week

Peter Cetera is on a brief tour again, this one bringing him to Cache Creek on Saturday night. (8 p.m.; 14455 Highway 16 in Brooks; $65, $75, $89;

• A testament to the long-lasting popularity of Cetera and cohorts is the Chicago Tribute Authority, paying homage to their music tonight and Saturday night at Harrah's Reno. (8 p.m.; 219 N. Center St. in Reno; $25, $30; 800-427-7247 or

• Boz Scaggs returns to the Reno area after a long absence, bringing a little "Lido Shuffle" and "Lowdown" to the Grand Sierra Saturday night. (9 p.m.; 2500 E. Second St. in Reno; $25, $45, $65;

• Three years ago, the band Soulive established a relationship with a club in Williamsburg, N.Y., to play several nights with multiple guests. It would end up being called Bowlive. It is doing the same thing at Lake Tahoe this week, bringing in guest artists. Tonight, for instance, it's George Porter Jr., Anders Osborne and Karl Denson. Saturday night, it is joined by Matisyahu and Ivan Neville. Plus, surprise guests would be no surprise. Shows are at the Crystal Bay Club, all 21 and over, all standing room only. (9 p.m.; 14 Highway 28 in Crystal Bay; $30;

• A K-Pop America Tour is scheduled for tonight at Thunder Valley. Artists are difficult to pin down, but it looks like Aziatix and Blush are among them. (8 p.m.; 1200 Athens Ave. in Lincoln; $21.50, $31.50; http:// thunder

• Also worth checking out this weekend: G Love and Special Sauce will be joined by special guest Scott H. Biram at Harrah's Tahoe Saturday (7:30 p.m.; 15 Highway 50, Stateline, Nev.; $29.50; 800-427-7247 or http://SouthShoreRoom .com); and Larry the Cable Guy plays in a venue relatively small for him, the Grande Exposition Hall at the Silver Legacy, Saturday night (6 and 9 p.m.; 407 N. Virginia St. in Reno; $57.50, $72.50; 800-687-8733 or more on events

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