The KriStef Brothers
The KriStef Brothers
One of the most unusual and unique shows to hit Las Vegas is set to open Feb. 9 at Westgate Las Vegas, and the star of “Twisted Vegas” admits that it’s a huge gamble that has whiplashed other foreign entertainers in the past.
When you think of famous French imports to America, you might come up with fabulous food, chilled champagnes, wondrous wines and the Statue of Liberty. But soon Alex Goude, a popular French TV star (he’s known as the Ryan Seacrest of Europe with not one but seven TV shows) will showcase his new production “Twisted Vegas.” He’s already planned a second Las Vegas show, a magical one without magic.
Knowing that European comedy doesn’t translate well onto the American stage, especially in Las Vegas, Alex has smartly partnered with Las Vegas entertainer juggler Michael Goudeau, who was Lance Burton’s onstage sidekick for nearly two decades at their Monte Carlo theater.
The French superstar tries to handle everything Las Vegas can throw his way — the good, wacky and outrageous. A show about the show, “Twisted Vegas” is an all-in-one, all-you-can-handle, interactive Las Vegas highlight reel.
On the stage where Elvis and Liberace gave their most legendary performances, Alex is determined to deliver impressive, large-scale singing and dancing routines, world-class magic, artistic circus shows, contortionists and even a scene-stealing wedding finale with a single member of the audience so that he can gain his green card. Insane? Absolutely yes!
Alex is one of France’s most talented and celebrated stars who hosts the French versions of “France’s Got Talent,” “Wipeout,” “Total Blackout,” “America’s Funniest Videos” and “Minute 2 Win It.” Since his career began at a comedy theater in Paris in 2003, it has skyrocketed and includes stage plays, commercials, movies, brand product launches, TV shows and more.
But he’s no stranger to Las Vegas. Alex has a fascinating history with our city and the Strip that dates back to his childhood. Alex has been quietly living here for three years with his husband and now their son while commuting to his shows in France and preparing for this Las Vegas debut.
Call this a French invasion because in addition to “Twisted Vegas,” he is producing and directing another future Las Vegas show while also finishing a new musical in France that is set to be the biggest in French history: “Timeo” opens in September with an astounding nearly $10 million budget.
“Twisted Vegas” not only stars Alex, but it also was written and directed by him along with Michael, a 12-time Emmy-nominated writer and comedy juggler who has performed more than 15,000 shows in Las Vegas. It’s a multimillion-dollar gamble backed by an impressive lineup of French investors, including Fimalac, one of the largest companies in France. If successful, he has a three-year deal to stay at Westgate.
Alex was determined to have a strong American and Las Vegas cast. Michael, who is the head writer for many of Penn & Teller’s TV shows, plays the craziest clown in the show. Ekaterina (Katya) Arnaoutova is a third-generation circus performer from a renowned Russian family who began her career in the Great Moscow Circus.
Katya was one of the ﬁrst Russian performers to join Cirque du Soleil in 1990 and relocated here in 2006 to be part of “The Beatles Love” at the Mirage. She performed in 4,000 shows for more than eight years. As principal aerialist, Katya mesmerizes audiences as she ﬂies in the most twisted “strap act” in Las Vegas.
After winning a raffle for a free week in a circus school, Isabel “Izzy” Patrowicz started performing with the circus just a few years later at age 10. She specializes in the ﬂying trapeze but has performed in other disciplines. She has appeared in circuses around the world, including The Big Apple Circus.
Sasha Pivaral won the Gold Medal International Contortion Contest at the International Circus Festival of Monte Carlo. Sasha is an acclaimed artist and is highly respected for her skills with a bow and arrow. She amazes audiences with her shooting accuracy with her feet contorted over her head.
Circus has always been about family, so it’s no surprise that joining Sasha in the cast of “Twisted Vegas” are her parents, Nelson and Goulya Pivaral. Nelson and Goulya met more than 25 years ago and have been performing circus acts their entire life.
Evgeny Vasilenko also is a member of a famous circus family taught by his father from age 14 in different circus disciplines: Juggling, acrobatics, hand balancing and ﬂying trapeze. He entered Russian National Circus School to continue developing his skills and create his acts and was invited to join Nikulin’s Old Moscow Circus.
Over the last decade, he has performed in Europe, South and North America and Asia. Since 2012, he’s performed in Las Vegas, and his slackwire routine and other acrobatics are featured in “Twisted Vegas.”
Las Vegas residents The KriStef Brothers are a high-energy, hand-to-hand and head-to-head comedy acrobatic balancing duo who have been performing together since childhood. They were ﬁnalists on “America’s Got Talent” in 2013 and have performed on “The Jimmy Fallon Show,” “Today” and TruTV’s “Fake Oﬀ,” as well as in “Le Reve — The Dream” at Wynn Las Vegas.
One of the French stars is Costic, a singer and impersonator who began performing at 4 before becoming the lead singer of a pop rock group at 17. In 2005, Costic created “The Divas Show” where he impersonated and sang live to the music of Lady Gaga, Shakira, Cher, Liza Minnelli, Edith Piaf and his signature number as Celine Dion.
In 2013, he performed on “France’s Got Talent” hosted by Alex and placed fourth with his impersonation of Celine’s “My Heart Will Go On.” Costic will bring his Celine and Britney Spears impersonations nightly to “Twisted Vegas.”
For the past six years, Dimos has performed in Tournament of Kings at Excalibur and hosted Snoop Dogg’s Snoopadelic cabaret show at Tao in the Venetian. The 4-foot-2 “Greek god” will play a twisted version of Elvis and a mini-Criss Angel.
Alex has brought one of the most successful choreographers in Europe, Johan Nus, as his artistic director and choreographer. He’s worked on “France’s Got Talent” since its premiere and more than 20 musicals in France.
Olivier Zardoni, who served in restaurant development with Michael Mina’s Aqua Restaurant Group and moved to open Steve Wynn’s Encore as director of restaurant operations, is the show’s producer. He’s also managing the $80 million Top Golf project behind MGM’s Signature Towers on Koval Avenue. The busy entrepreneur owns and operates five restaurants here, and he’s working with Alex on several entertainment projects.
I sat in on early rehearsals, and, yes, the show is definitely twisted — but also fast-paced, funny and edgy, with some of Las Vegas and France’s most fascinating performers. The opening video is a hysterical montage of Alex being fired from every job available at Westgate until he’s offered the showroom gig.
His first spoof is with a Steve Wynn takeoff from the top of Westgate. “I have no problem making fun of myself,” he declared. “I spoof the big star arrivals on the Strip, so since I can’t afford 50 horses like Shania had, we’ll make do with a skateboard on Paradise!”
Members of the audience will get six opportunities during the 80-minute show to go onstage to perform with the artists in various acts.
“It might seem surprising since people here don’t know me yet, but I’ve been traveling back and forth between France and Las Vegas for almost my whole life,” said Alex. “I’ve been to every show and was able to see the great talent in Las Vegas.
“But when a visitor comes here, they probably won’t have the opportunity to experience all the shows Las Vegas has to offer, so I created ‘Twisted Vegas.’ This show will shake up the status quo and replace it with a new take on the city’s favorite acts, plus a lot of never-before-seen ones, and put them all in one live show.”
In between acts rehearsing, Alex and I talked about his vision: “I went to see all the Las Vegas shows. Every time I do a show, my goal is to try and see what is missing in the market. Right now what is missing is funny, but family friendly funny, not like ‘Absinthe’ or ‘Zumanity,’ which are like 45-year-old funny. I want something you can bring your kids to, so very funny for everybody.”
“Very spectacular because that’s Las Vegas, so it needs to be spectacular and with a bit of a story because here I think you miss a story, you miss the different characters. Even for Cirque du Soleil shows, you don’t get attached to the people you see.
“So 18 months ago, I said I need to do every show in the same show, so that was the beginning of it. My trademark is funny. Usually when you go see something I do in France, it’s funny. The challenge was making American funny and not French funny. There’s a big difference, and I’m the first to admit it.
“That’s why I hired my friend Michael Goudeau, so he wrote the whole show with me trying to do a mix between his American and my French. It’s turned into a big, crazy thing. The whole goal was to do something where I use most of the talent of the artists. You’ve never been to a show where you have drones flying in the theater.
“I pick up the best talents, and I completely redirect them and use their skills to do something even better and funnier. I hired a lot of American talent, and I make them do things that they’ve never done before, but I’m using their skills to do that. The KriStef Brothers, pretty famous finalists on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ have the kind of act they do but completely revamped in my way. They’re improving their skills, which is the whole goal of doing this.
“Although it’s circus acts, it’s not circus-y. It’s everything. There is magic, dancing, singing. We spoof everything Las Vegas. I’m not worried about our spoof of Criss Angel but have a little concern over the spas of Las Vegas. We’re only wearing bathrobes and juggling at the same time, so call this a PG show with a split-second of near nudity in humor.
“We’re gambling a lot of money, but I know up front that French theater does not translate to America. It doesn’t work at all. Hopefully, I’m not going to make the same mistakes as my other friends or competitors. This is my second hometown after Paris. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid.
“I know Las Vegas better than any city in the U.S. from coming here, and I’ve lived here for three years, so I pretty much know everything that’s going on in town. I just want to make something that is missing because that’s always the goal in any strategy.
“We know it will be a tough sell, but I arrive before everyone else for rehearsals and leave at 10 every night. This is the stage of Elvis, stage of Barry Manilow, stage of Liberace, so when I’m walking on the stage, I feel the spirit of everybody. I know it’s a tough market anyway wherever you are. A lot of big shows have been on the Strip and failed.
“We’re going to have lower prices than everybody else on the Strip. It’s easy to come here with the monorail. I know the room is tough, it’s very big to fill, but it’s an amazing theater, and here I can do everything I want to do. A lot of the rooms that were proposed to me on the Strip, I couldn’t do what I wanted. We have 25 acts, so that’s great value for money.
“This is variety, and I don’t want anybody going crazy bored even if it’s impressive. So here every act is going to be 2 1/2 minutes to 3 minutes, that’s it, except for the Celine act. That’s the longest one of the whole show because it’s singing. I close the show with a big flash mob.
“It’s a very interactive show. A lot of people from the audience go onstage, they can learn steps online before going to the show. I make them go onstage a lot during the show. At the end of the show, which really is my story, I tell the audience I want to stay in Las Vegas and marry someone random from the audience every night because I want a green card.
“It can be a boy or girl. I don’t care. I throw a bouquet every night. I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, so I don’t care. A French kiss every night with someone from the audience is going to be fun. So we have the wedding, finish with a big flash mob and a duet with Celine and Elvis.”
After its Feb. 9 debut, “Twisted Vegas” will perform one show nightly Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7, dark Mondays. We’ll have our full Q+A with Alex during the first rehearsals.
Meantime, Las Vegas producer David Saxe has announced that he will open “Spoofical: A Musical” in his “Zombie Burlesque” theater at Planet Hollywood’s Miracle Mile Shops also in February.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.