Fifth Street

December 9, 2021

Seasonal attractions, music, art, dance, and more | Craft cocktails and intimate spaces fuel the new supper club boom | A diverse gift-shopping guide to beat the big-box blues

Until It Speaks Back
Through Dec. 21
Art exhibit

You might say Suzanne Acosta’s work has face value, literally: The artist and CSN instructor has devoted much of her long artistic career to plumbing the mysteries of the human face in multiple media, from oil to charcoal. For her, it’s almost a transportive spiritual experience. “Drawing the portrait is always a relentless pursuit,” she says in her artist’s statement. “I can only disembark from the work when it has transported me. I listen intently, for the work to speak back to me and I can make a connection with the face I am drawing.” In this exhibit, Acosta exhibits a selection of the enigmatic portraits she’s produced over the last 20 years, along with a suite of mixed-media, experimental self-portraits titled The Alphabet Series. AK

Free, Clark County Library

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Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Through Jan. 2
Pop-up holiday theme park

For many Vegas Valley residents, the reopening of Opportunity Village’s Magical Forest signals a return to normalcy from the social austerity of the COVID pandemic. For three decades now, the service and training center for people with disabilities has held its winter carnival, complete with light shows, midway-style games and rides, and food. And over that time, it’s gotten steadily bigger and more sparkly — until 2020, of course. So, families will welcome the opportunity to take their kids to see Santa, ride on the Forest Express train, and zip down the snow-covered Avalanche Slide. HK

5:30p, $22 and up, opportunityvillage.org

Sasha Issenberg, The Engagement
Dec. 9

Reading and book signing

Remember when, once upon a time, the “sacred” institution of marriage had to be “defended” and “protected” from same-sex unions? Writer and professor Sasha Issenberg remembers, and his latest book, The Engagement, compellingly recounts the long and bitter battle over marriage equality. His book goes back to the ’90s, when state courts in Hawaii first began wrestling with the same-sex marriage question, explores the infamous Defense of Marriage act of 1996, and covers the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling that state bans on same-sex unions are unconstitutional. Issenberg will read from The Engagement, discuss the state of marriage equality, and sign books. AK

7p, free, The Writer’s Block, thewritersblock.org

Boulder City Santa Express
Dec. 10
Vintage train ride

The Nevada Southern Railway is offering both kid-friendly and adult-only versions of its holiday themed rides on restored vintage trains. Both versions are pajamas-optional night rides with open-air and table cars available. The 90-minute family ride, being offered on multiple dates, features hot cocoa, cookies, and story time with Santa. The two-hour adult version includes beer, wine, and hot toddies during a party at Santa’s Railyard and takes place on December 10 only. HK

8:15p, $30 and up, Nevada State Railroad Museum, nevadasouthern.com, 702-580-6074

Holiday Ornament Walk
Dec. 11
Family crafting event
The City of Henderson has a whole month’s worth of holiday activities planned, from the basic photos with Santa to Christmas-themed concerts and movie nights. The ornament walk is a hands-on opportunity for families to make their own seasonal keepsakes. The town plaza will be filled with decorating stations that people are invited to visit one by one, progressively piecing together both a story and something to take home and hang on the Christmas tree. HK

10a, free, Water Street Plaza, cityofhenderson.com/winterfest

“Holidays Around the World” with Jessica Fichot
Dec. 10, 11, 12
Multilingual musical performance

Here’s an easy way to travel the world this holiday season without having to let the TSA wand your nethers: Check out Jessica Fichot’s “Holidays Around the World” concerts. Drawing from her own multi-ethnic background (French, Chinese, American), Fichot (headline picture) fuses musical genres such as French chanson, 1940s Shanghai jazz, gypsy swing, and international folk. In this concert, Fichot and her band will perform original work as well as international holiday songs sung in seven different languages. Note: May contain accordions and toy pianos. AK

7:30p Dec. 10, West Charleston Library Lecture Hall; 2p Dec. 11, West Las Vegas Library Theater; 2p Dec. 12, Windmill Library Auditorium

Cool Yule
Dec. 17-19
Dance performance

“Holiday spectacular” shows can be a grab bag of merry and meh, but you can rest assured there’ll be no lumps of coal in “A Cool Yule Christmas” Celebration — because it’s being put on by the Las Vegas Valley’s most underrated dance organization, Contemporary West Dance Theatre. Led by veteran dance maven Bernard Gaddis, Contemporary West is among our most dynamic, devoted, and disciplined performance groups. In this show, they’ll don their stockings and pair innovative dance segments to classic holiday tunes. Sing-alongs encouraged. AK

7:30p Dec. 17 and 18, 1:30p Dec. 19, $10-$25, Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 Brush Street. Tickets at the box office or lvdance.org/performances

The Soul of Kwanzaa
Dec. 26
Music festival

Las Vegas-based soul singer Chimini-Yoka Branch and hip-hop violinist Brandon Summers headline the holiday African music fest kicking off Kwanzaa, the weeklong celebration of African heritage in American culture. Olabisi African Dance & Drum Ensemble, known for its interactive performances, will invite audience members to experience the rhythms and traditions of West Africa through storytelling and song. And local leaders who’ve helped the community will also be honored. HK

3-5 p, free, West Las Vegas Library, 951 W. Lake Mead Blvd.

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EVEN BEFORE Covid, Las Vegas nightlife was ready for a change. For over two decades, mammoth-sized, big-name, high-priced clubs dominated, but the scene was beginning to lose steam: Consider KAOS at the Palms, which opened with a multi-million-dollar bang in April 2019 and closed with an empty-wallet whimper less than eight months later. Clubs had become places you endured going to mostly so you could tell everyone that you went.

What has been doing brisk business as we head toward 2022 are supper clubs. Places where people can enjoy intimate spaces and unique decor rather than dark, cavernous rooms, where they can share well-crafted cocktails and conversation rather than slapdash bottle service and deafening DJs. It seems that the newest way to party in Las Vegas is a throwback to how they swung at the Sands and the Sahara 60 years ago.

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The Wynn’s supper club, Delilah, is one of the most glamorous rooms in the city. It’s a lavish Art Deco space with big-entrance staircases and golden palm trees, where marble, chrome and inlaid wood gleam at varying degrees of luminosity and you half-expect to see Myrna Loy or Jean Harlow slinking across the dance floor. The entertainment is jazz bands and torch singers, which makes for a lovely atmosphere, but it is just atmosphere. The menu leans into new twists on classic dishes, like a short rib and scallop surf 'n’ turf or Caesar salad with king crab. The bar program, put together by the Wynn’s resident alchemist, Mariena Mercer Boarini, likewise zazzes up tradition — the Film Noir gives a spicy kick to the Old Fashioned, while the Stepford Wife hits a French 75 with flavors of strawberry and lemongrass, as well as tongue-tingling edible glitter. Even if you’re not up to the full menu and full show, Delilah’s Bubble Bar with its celebrity caricatures and cruise-ship vibe is worth a trip.

If Delilah is the 1930s, the Bellagio’s Mayfair is the 1950s, featuring decor that blends blush and aqua tones with undersea motifs for a sort of mid-mod baroque — coral branch lamps, etched-glass jellyfish mirrors and fountain views. The club recently hosted a residency by Lío Ibiza, a full-blown production with a dozen entertainers, multiple costume changes (all sequinned), songs, impressions, a dance-off and a Madonna tribute replete with voguing: It’s a show that is très Eurovision but, in its over-the-top shimmy and glitter, also feels very Vegas. The regular Mayfair show is more intimate, more jazz than pop, with several performers singing, dancing, and playing a white baby grand. The space and the shows are delightful, but the food menu lacks the same style and panache — a set menu of sushi, steak, and other standards offered up without particular flair. (Right, Mayfair's filet mignon.)

Operating in its own orbit is the Cosmopolitan’s Superfrico, the first restaurant from Absinthe/Opium creators Spiegelworld. The setting and the floor show have the off-kilter, acrobatic sensibility of the company’s shows.The dining room glows with psychedelic art and neon colors alongside a space capsule-sleek bar that flows into the adjacent Opium show space; there’s also a “secret” bar with a ski lodge theme — all stone walls, wood beams and taxidermy. However, Superfrico’s menu is gimmick-free, and takes its take on classic Italian dishes seriously. The chicken parmesan is cheesy, saucy comfort food and may be the best in town, while an array of pizzas are topped with everything from house-made mozzarella to pistachio pesto with mortadella and stracciatella. The cocktails lean more to the “extra” of the decor than the mama vibe of the food but, from a selection of Negronis to the now-ubiquitous espresso martini, they’re elegantly done. Superfrico has no stage or live band, but a series of acts that pop in, hop on a banquette, and dazzle the audience for a few minutes. It could be a juggler, a magician, a tap dancer, a quick-change act or all of the above, but they all share the flashy wit Spiegelworld is known for.

If you prefer your act to have a bit more class, it doesn’t get classier than the NoMad Library, a deep-toned, high-ceilinged space adorned with giant chandeliers and 80,000 books from the Rockefeller family’s private collection. The Library has begun offering late-night entertainment in its restaurant space, which actually works very well as a venue — there’s plenty of room for a bandstand at one end and a banquette-flanked elevated runway down the center of the room accommodates trumpet solos and burlesque routines. Or both, as is the case when Brian Newman, Lady Gaga’s musical director, brings his own show to the room as bandleader/horn player with guest spots by his wife, former Miss Exotic World Angie Pontani. With a crack band backing on Frank Sinatra tunes and dueling each other on Charlie Parker numbers — as well as a few showgirls in cute, trumpet-themed outfits — it’s the sort of gig one could imagine playing the Casbar Lounge at 2 a.m. back in the day. The NoMad late-night menu isn’t as lavish as their dinner selection of shellfish towers and wagyu for two, but the chicken fingers and French fries are at the same level of plate-licking deliciousness.

But not all of the action is on the Strip: A mile or two off of Las Vegas Boulevard is the Vegas Nevada Rooms, whose opening is part of the rebirth of Commercial Center and the return of authentic, old-school Vegas. There’s a small cabaret room, a larger showroom and a piano bar, all decorated by showgirl/choreographer/costume designer Mistinguett, who also painted the glitzy showgirl art and created the shimmering silver metal palm trees that flank the stage (out of ductwork, amazingly). Local legends also appear in person, with singers and musicians from the big rooms and Broadway hitting the stage for more personal, intimate performances. The calendar is booked with veteran Las Vegas acts, including Jimmy Hopper, Vita Drew and Bobby Brooks Wilson.

One of the highlights is the weekly “Sit In with Kelly Clinton,” during which the engaging singer/comedienne hosts a string of special guests that keep the room applauding for hours — the performers might have just come from touring with a full orchestra or a shift in the emergency room, but all are impressively talented. The Nevada Room’s dinner menu is still getting a bit of finesse, but the entertainment is top-notch and sometimes even a step above that.

After so many months of having to experience the world through a screen, we want to be in the same room where the musicians are playing, the dancers are dancing and the corks are popping. We want to be in a room that’s full of people, but doesn’t crowd us together. Hell, we’re ready to wear real pants and shoes with heels! Sin City’s newest nightlife trend may be a return to its golden age, but supper clubs makes everyone feel a little like a movie star — or the chairman of the board — and that never goes out of style.

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IF YOU'RE ANYTHING like me, you’re just starting to curate that list of things to give those you love, and you believe the importance of shopping small is worth the time and effort. Choosing to buy from local retailers helps assuage feelings of guilt about the never-ending cycle of consumerism and makes shopping more meaningful. 

“Every dollar counts towards someone’s livelihood, and one sale is supporting real people with real dreams,” says Crysta Carr, owner of vegan bath and body shop SuckingLemons. 

In recent years, Nevada has become much more diverse, and we can see that growth within our communities. New small businesses have made the state more colorful, and it's easier now than ever to support them. Here’s a list to help get you started!

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Apparel

Sin Amor Studio

Ruby Romero opened Sin Amor studio with the intention of creating a multifaceted art boutique focused on creating more than selling. Featuring high-end art pieces, vintage designer clothing, hand-painted home decor, candles, and more, Sin Amor houses a creative space that welcomes people of all interests and backgrounds.1329 S. Commerce St.

Neon Cactus

For those with an eye for good vintage items, Neon Cactus is the place to stop by. Owners Negar Hosseini-Nasab and her wife Alicia Avery have created a space to house and sell all the funky and fun threads they find that will catch shoppers’ attention. Avery also handmakes stained glass goods that are available for purchase. 1028 Fremont St. #111, neoncactusvintage.com

Rockin’ Bettie

Popular among the pin-up community, Rockin’ Bettie was founded by Amy Ortiz to be a one-stop shop for those looking to live their ’50s fashion dreams with a modern edge. Sizes range from XS to XXXXL in men and women’s styles — meaning anyone and everyone can find a retro piece that fits. 1302 S. 3rd St., rockinbettie.com

Jewelry

TarnishedMetals

Lady silversmith Jasna Cabric makes some of the best handcrafted jewelry I’ve seen in a long time. You name it, she can do it, from necklaces and cuffs to earrings and rings. One of her pieces will make a gift that someone cherishes forever. tarnishedmetals.com

No.9 Metalsmithing

Dina Goodhue takes inspiration from the natural beauty the Southwest has to offer and puts those impressions into her jewelry. Working with silver, metal, and stones, Goodhue produces work that reflects the time and care it takes to make something truly beautiful. no9metal.com

N8tivearts Erick Begay

Tapping into more than 20 years mastering his craft, as well as his Navajo heritage, Erick Begay has created an abundant collection incorporating Native American staples such as turquoise, silver, and gold. He sells his many creations out of a shop near Hoover Dam. 1311 Boulder City Parkway, Boulder City

Eats

Rani’s World Foods

Rani’s is a popular gourmet market offering in-store shopping, pickup, and delivery. It’s the perfect place to stop in and grab unusual delicacies for the adventurous eater in your life.  4505 W. Sahara Ave., ranisworldfoods.com

International Marketplace

Another good source for foods not typically found in your neighborhood grocery store, International Marketplace carries products from more than 50 countries. 5000 S. Decatur Blvd., impfoods.co

Dog and Whistle 

Founded by Eric J. Adams, Dog and Whistle wants to change the way dog food is made and distributed. Adams has taken what he learned from years of working in the food industry and made human-grade dog food for the furry ones we love. (Right, Dog and Whistle's Ba Haa Meal, made with fresh lamb, sorghum, broccoli, carrots, and blueberries.) dogandwhistle.com

Miscellaneous 

SuckingLemons

With a passion for the wellness of people and the planet, Crysta Carr makes 100-percent vegan and eco-friendly bath and body products. They range from handmade soaps with beautiful, marbled designs to deeply hydrating whipped shea butter. suckinglemons.com

Battle Born Pins

True Las Vegans grow up with a deep appreciation for the neon signs we’re surrounded by. Holly Vaughn, owner of Battle Born Pins, has taken that appreciation and created pins replicating some of the city’s iconic signs and mid-century architecture. lasvegaspins.com

Iron Rose Plant Shop

This Latina-owned plant nursery is a new gem in Boulder City. The thoughtful arrangement of live houseplants throughout the mid-century themed shop demonstrates how the gift of green adds a pop of nature to any space. 525 Nevada Way, Boulder City, ironroseplantshop.com

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Photos and art: Jessica Fichot: Nicolas Kaviani; Acosta painting: courtesy Suzanne Acosta; Magical Forest: Courtesy Opportunity Village; Boulder City Santa Express: Courtesy Nevada Southern Railway; Cool Yule: Courtesy Contemporary West Dance Theatre; Delilah: Courtesy Wynn Las Vegas; Mayfair: Anthony Mair; NoMad Library: Dylan + Jeni; Dog and Whistle: Courtesy Eric Adams; Iron Rose: Courtesy Iron Rose

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