When Broadway started stirring up the past with tribute musicals, either those loosely based on reality, like "Dreamgirls," or directly, like "Jersey Boys," it was inevitable casino shows would do likewise.
Earlier this year, the Eldorado presented "Man in the Mirror," celebrating the music of Michael Jackson and distinguished by strong vocals and stunning choreography. Now comes "Jersey Nights," celebrating the music of Frankie Valli and distinguished by strong vocals and stunningly mediocre choreography.
"Jersey Boys" traces the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. "Jersey Nights" threatens to be a knockoff but instead is just a presentation of the songs that helped define an era.
The 1960s have become clichéd in our national memory. The music sometimes gets boiled down to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and a smattering of Motown. Often forgotten are the 175 million records sold by Valli. This musical evening at the Eldorado reminds audiences of the irresistible joy and earworm adhesive power of those songs.
The Jackson show included images of the singer. But there are no images of Valli in this show. There are background projections of the era and a silent shot of Ed Sullivan introducing an act, presumably the Four Seasons. But a fine line is walked when it comes to any possible conflict with "Jersey Boys." Indeed, there are only four singers on stage, not five.
But what singers they are. Vince Ricco is a true New Jersey native, Jamie Sampson and David Wyatt come from England, and Jeff Wait hails from Arkansas. Together, they present seamless harmony and move to the music with equal precision. Throughout (except for a beautiful a cappella "Silence Is Golden"), they are backed by some of Reno's best musicians Ron Savage on piano, Joe McKenna on bass, Justin Kruger on drums, Paul Lenz on trumpet, David Grantham on guitar, and Doug Coomler on sax who prove the value of live music with every number.
Also on stage are six dancers, but they draw little attention. That is probably a good thing. The choreography they have been given consists of a few standard, predictable moves, and a few of them seem incapable of performing even those with any precision. The four singers are also the four best dancers.
"Jersey Nights" has proved its popularity in the Eldorado Showroom and has been extended through Nov. 13. (7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays; $21.95, $32.95, $38.95, $43.95; 800-648-5966 or www.eldoradoreno.com)
Food and Wine Festival
The 27th Lake Tahoe Food and Wine Festival, which kicks off Saturday and runs through Sept. 9, has increased both its length and number of programs. It is now spread throughout North Tahoe, West Shore to Kings Beach and even down to Truckee. New attractions include "Bacon, Beer, and Bluegrass" on Saturday at West Shore Café in Homewood (bacon recipes prepared by area chefs and paired with microbrews), a winemaker dinner Thursday at Soule Domain in Crystal Bay, and an Alpen Wine Fest on Sunday at the Village at Squaw Valley.
Popular annual events are back, including the grape stomp Sept. 7 at Tahoe City's Commons Beach , a series of educational seminars Sept. 8 at the Village at Northstar, and the event's pinnacle, the Culinary Competition and Grand Tasting on Sept. 9, also at Northstar. More than 30 restaurants, caterers and chefs will present bite-sized dishes paired with wine, beer or other spirits.
There are many free programs, especially Sept. 8 at the Village at Northstar. Programs include outdoor grilling and cooking seminars, butchering demonstrations and cooking lessons. That venue also will host the Blazing Pans Mountain Cook-off between chef Sean Conry of Longboards and chef Elsa Corrigan of Mamasake Sushi (4:15 p.m.; $15). (Full schedule, prices, and tickets at www.tahoefoodandwine.com)
Out and about
When Frank Sinatra Jr. played Harrah's Tahoe last October, the audience gasped and then burst into applause when the curtain opened on a 38-piece orchestra, the equivalent of what his father used on his recordings, the arrangements of which Junior faithfully followed. When he plays the Atlantis tonight, the musicians will be fewer, mainly because the convention center stage is not equipped to handle such a large ensemble. But the music will be largely Frank Sinatra's, and Sinatra Jr. has proved himself to be a worthy and strong-voiced presenter of his father's music. (9 p.m.; $59; 888-551-7007)
Even in its heyday, the rock band Styx belied the hellish connotation of its name, presenting music far more light than dark. Styx now has become one of the more reliable acts playing casino showrooms and amphitheaters. Styx plays Thunder Valley on Thursday, (8 p.m.; $24.50, $31.50, $43.50, $59.50, $72.50; www.thunder valleyresort.com)
Dierks Bentley offers the area a one-two punch this weekend. His show Saturday at Jackson Rancheria is sold out, but he's also at the Reno Events Center tonight. (8 p.m.; $49; 888-288-1833 or www.ticketmaster.com)
Jim Gaffigan's latest special, "Mr. Universe," is available through his website. The special offers 75 minutes of stand-up for $5, along with the encouragement to play it often, burn it, and even to share it with friends through e-mail. He appears Sunday at the Silver Legacy (7 p.m.; $57.50, $75.50; 800-687-8733 or www.silverlegacy.com)
Sammy Hagar wraps up the Harveys Lake Tahoe Outdoor Concert Series on Saturday. His show covers four decades of his career. (8 p.m.; $69.50 general admission only; www.ticketmaster.com or www.apeconcerts.com)
Sarah Geronimo, Filipino pop star, will be joined by Mark Bautista at Cache Creek. With the sellout of her concerts Saturday and Sunday nights, a 4 p.m. Saturday concert has been added. ($89; www.cachecreek.com)
The Lake Tahoe Flow Arts Festival is set for Tuesday through Thursday at the North Tahoe Events Center (8318 North Lake Blvd.), North Tahoe Beach (7860 North Lake Blvd.) and the Lake Tahoe Wellness Center (695 Wolf St.) all in Kings Beach. Events include hooping, juggling, aerial silk flying, stand-up paddleboarding, dance and yoga. ($77 full-event pass, $45 daily pass; tickets and full schedule at www.flowartistry.com)
John Ascuaga's Nugget, Sparks Spin Doctors, today; Gloriana, Saturday; Molly Hatchet, Sunday; Doug Kershaw, Monday. (800) 648-1177.
Carson Valley Inn Cabaret Lounge: Jo Mama, through Saturday; Joe Buonanno, Sunday-Wednesday; Under the Radar, Thursday; After Dark, next Friday-Sept. 8. Ballroom: Lacy J. Dalton, Comstock Cowboys, All Hat No Cattle, today. (775) 782-9711.
Eldorado, Reno Showroom: "Jersey Nights," through Nov. 13. (800) 648-5966.
Harrah's Reno Sammy's Showroom: Taylor Hicks, through Monday; "Persuasion," Thursdays-Sundays. (800) 427-7247.
Harrah's Lake Tahoe South Shore Room: Nathan Owens Motown Legends, today-Monday (800) 427-7247.
Harveys, Lake Tahoe Improv: Heath Hyche, Daryl Wright, Wednesday-Sunday; Dennis Regan, Marc Price, Wednesday-Sept. 9. Outdoor Arena: Sammy Hagar The Red Rocker, Saturday. (800) 427-8397.
Horizon, Lake Tahoe Illusion Fusion starring Alex Ramon, Thursdays-Tuesdays. (775) 588-6211.
Silver Legacy, Reno Grande Exposition Hall: Jim Gaffigan, Sunday. Reno Ballroom: Vietnamese Concert, Saturday; Chinese Concert - You Ya and Zhang Di, Sunday. Reno Events Center: Dierks Bently, today; Big Time Rush, Sept. 20. (800) 687-8733.