Michael Johns – one of the hottest club acts today

Aug 9th, 2004 | Category: In the Press

Head of Unbelievable Enterprises, the Vermont native is producing two shows at Bourbon Street “Spotlight,” a variety show that includes singers, dancers, escape artists and magicians, and “Mostly Magic Matinee,” a show that features … well, mostly magic.

“Spotlight” is co-produced by Roya (who also performs in the production and runs the box office) and comedian-hypnotist Michael Johns (who hosts the show but does not perform his adult-themed comedy for the family-oriented audiences).

“Mostly Magic Matinee” features magician Nick Comis and escape artist Tyas Frantz.

The shows are produced in a dark, close, 120-seat theater whose low ceiling is a challenge to Roya the juggler and any other performer who needs more than a few inches of space above his or her head.

There won’t be any high-wire acts at Bourbon Street, a somewhat modest venue on East Flamingo Road at the intersection of Audrie Street.

A few hundred yards west of the threadbare hotel-casino is the ever-bustling Strip and in between the two is the Barbary Coast.

While the Barbary Coast sits in quiet, understated elegance, Bourbon Street stands in the shadows, sort of a trailer park in a high-rent district that seems to try to avoid drawing attention to itself.

Roya, the realistic producer and magician, has no illusions about the property or the theater, which he leases.

“I have financial backers, so I could get a better room,” Roya said. “But I won’t do it if the numbers don’t pan out.”

He said Bourbon Street gave him a fair deal.

“The others want a ridiculous amount of money for rent,” Roya said. “Which is why shows open and close so fast.

“This is not the best property in town, but it is an opportunity. A place to start.”

In addition to majoring in theater at the University of Vermont, he minored in business. And for now, Bourbon Street, no matter how un-spectacular, makes good business sense.

“It is what it is,” Roya said. “For the money, this show is the best value in town with the dinner package and free karaoke after the show and a free drink.

“You can’t beat the price, and we’re just a five-minute walk off the Strip.”

Roya says fans are flocking to the bargain-basement production, filling the seats for most performances. He says it has been so busy they added the matinee to meet the demand for good, inexpensive entertainment close to the Strip.

“There is no other show like ours that can come close in price range, unless they go to an afternoon show,” Roya said.

“We have a good product to offer we can’t compete with the big hotels, but for the price and what we have to work with in the venue, it can’t be beat.”

The low price draws a lot of families into the showroom, Roya said. Because mostly families attend, Roya stresses that it is a show suitable for all ages. The tap dancers and other performers won’t offend anyone.

“I, personally, would rather do a family show,” Roya said. “I like performing for all ages.”

That could be because when he began performing professionally in high school, working mostly at children’s parties. When he brought his wholesome act to Vegas, he settled in for a year or so at the New Frontier, co-starring in and producing “Illusions & Beyond.” The reviews were good, though not raves.

Roya, always enthusiastic about his projects, hawked tickets on the streets, encouraging everyone he encountered to come in and see the show. He put his home up for collateral to pay for the rent at the New
Frontier.

“Four-walling is not fair,” he said. “But that’s the way it is in corporate circles these days — it’s not good for the Vegas image for all the shows to open and close so quickly.

“I have a proven track record. All my shows have lasted at least half a year or longer.”

When “Illusions & Beyond” closed before his lease at the New Frontier ran out, he produced “Victor and Diamond, The Soul of Magic.”

He also became involved in the production of hypnotist Terry Stokes’ “Hypnolarious” at Bourbon Street and a Neil Diamond tribute show at the Riviera.

He and Johns are working on creating a production to make use of Johns’ comedic and hypnotic talents.

Michael Johns is one of the hottest club acts today,” Roya said.

Meanwhile, Roya is looking at a number of other productions, including an adult variety show.

“It would be like ‘Spotlight,’ only topless,” he said.

Roya doesn’t believe he’s being unrealistic when he sees bigger things in his future.

“I want to be the next Cirque du Soleil,” he said. “I would like to produce big shows in big venues, including in my own casino. That’s my long-term goal.

“I have the drive, and with people like Michael Johns as my partner and friends willing to stand by me, I can do it.”

Copyright and Published by the Las Vegas Sun on August 9, 2004