First, the good news. After going null for two with Paul Rodriguez (PR nightmare) and Wayne Newton (artistic disaster), the Tropicana Las Vegas appears to have swatted an 0-2 pitch into the bleachers. Brad Garrett’s eponymous comedy club is a hit, a palpable hit — as Shakespeare’s Osric would say. Garrett works the room gregariously beforehand and the audience (at least last night’s) comes primed for a good time. Warm-up is provided by a singer/pianist who does spirited Billy Joel covers and a better-than-average Frank Sinatra impersonation. (Matt Goss could take pointers from him.)
You might say Garrett is doing turnaway business, save for the fact that nobody’s being turned away. Last night’s show was grossly oversold. There’s no point making a reservation. It won’t get you a better seat and you might as well buy your ticket on a walk-up basis. Seating is a disorganized scrum of chairs — far too many by any standpoint. God forbid the fire alarm goes off or carnage will ensue when they try to evacuate the former Comedy Stop. It’s a classy, old-school Vegas showroom: broad and low-ceilinged, and it’s so far escaped the “South Beach” retheming of the property.
The latter’s increasingly prevalent cream-on-white color scheme is beginning to look very much like a Busby Berkeley musical in waiting. Also, the pale recladding of the Paradise Tower’s north façade is peeling … badly. Methinks they need to scrape that off and find something less susceptible to the elements.
The evening’s saddest sight was the Trop’s puny excuse for a sports book, a holdover from the benign-neglect era of Aztar Corp. It had only three patrons, two of whom were asleep. Upstairs, I’m told Garrett “killed” with some scathing jests. I had to leave 35 minutes into the show when I took ill. It wasn’t the fault of stultifyingly unfunny opening act Rob Sherwood — but I’m blaming him anyway.
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Magnanimity Award: It’s a rare thing when a casino operator defers to a rival. However, after UNR’s William Eadington nominated Navegante Group to run the rudderless Greektown Casino, Navegante CEO Larry Woolf did something unusual. When interviewed by a Detroit newspaper, he demurred, saying the gig should go to a company already licensed in Michigan. That may or may not be Woolf’s subtle way of telling Greektown’s new hedge-fund owners that they should rehire Fine Point Group (which was doing a bang-up job of improving Greektown’s performance before it got the boot). Either way, such humility is both unusual and praiseworthy.