St. Helena Star
 Vol. CXXVII - Number 37
September 13, 2001
St. Helena, California
Forty-Six and One half cents plus tax 

Published in the heart of the Napa Valley since 1874

Planet Vegas arrives in Wine Country

by Staff Writer Sue Michul


Aging lounge lizard Bobby Baker plays host to an evening of song, dance and Las Vegas history in ‘Planet Vegas,’ playing in Napa and St. Helena.

Vegas, it's a whole 'nother planet.

Aliens, quickie weddings, Howard Hughes, teaming herds of conventioneers and all-you-can-eat buffets.

"Planet Vegas," an original musical written and directed by Valley resident and former Las Vegas chorus dancer Bonnie Zimmerman, is now playing in Napa at Dreamweaver's Theater, to be followed by a return engagement at the Tucker Farm Center north of St. Helena.

St. Helena resident and former Las Vegas impersonator Robert Battaile wrote several original songs for the show, which is performed by Napa Valley Community Theatre. According to Zimmerman, "Planet Vegas" is a musical expose that takes an irreverent look at America's "ultimate theme park." It is based on the remembrances of aging lounge lizard Bobby Baker, played by Bob Kresko, who serves as the evening's host.The play follows the history of Las Vegas, beginning with early brothel days, the Pair-O-Dice Club and nuclear bomb testing of the 1950s, the Rat Pack days of the 60s, right up to the current time, including tourists in purple warm-up suits, sandals and socks, and fanny packs worn on the stomach.

"Which way to the dollar buffet? ... You'll find hard-working servers with nets in their hair ... Formica counters and stainless steel stretching for miles..."


Eager tourists in Las Vegas search out the nearest dollar buffet and slot machines.

The strong vocals of Shauna Marshall, in the dual role of club singer Sugar and burlesque performer Sophie Tucker, leaves the audience wanting to hear her perform more solos. R.J. Snead does a stunning rendition of "I've Gotta Be Me" as Sammy Davis Jr.

"Dizzie Fingers," a piano tune by Lee Berace, Liberace's twin sister (played by Carolyn Long in a bright blue fright wig) is another crowd pleaser. Her hilarious facial expressions leave the audience in stitches.

"Planet Vegas" also contains many familiar tunes from Broadway shows, including "Gotta Have a Gimmick" from "Gypsy" and "Dance 10, Looks 3" from "A Chorus Line."

The show takes on a somber tone when it visits Las Vegas of 1957. "Go gather up your friends, put on a real show. Drive to the desert, watch the eerie glow." Atomic bomb testing took place only 40 miles from Las Vegas. Women dressed as mannequins are scattered about the Nevada test site.

This portion of the show is a complete change of pace and mood, an important reminder of the serious history of the desert community.


"Hey, big spender, spend a little time with me."

"Planet Vegas" ends with a heart-wrenching version of "My Way" by Kresko and an ensemble performance of "Viva Las Vegas."

Audience members sit at tables designed to resemble casino tables, with decks of cards, poker chips, dice and play money. And just like Las Vegas itself, this musical is not appropriate for children. The 8-year-old boy in the audience at a recent performance had plenty to ogle at, what with all the scantily clad women.

Performances will take place at Dreamweavers Theater on Imola Avenue in Napa Sept. 13 at 7 p.m., Sept. 14 and 15 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 16 at 4 p.m. The show then moves to the Tucker Farm Center on Highway 29 Sept. 20 at 7 p.m., Sept. 21 and 22 at 8 p.m. and Sept. 23 at 4 p.m. Tickets are available at the door, at the Calistoga Bookstore, at Guttenberg Printing in St. Helena or by calling Napa Valley Community Theater at 942-4979.
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