UPDATE 12/1/1 - The official website for UNCENSORED The Show was pulled down overnight.
UPDATE 11/30/21 - UNCENSORED The Show has permanently closed at Treasure Island as of Saturday 11/27/21. Sunday's performance was canceled abruptly due to a physical altercation between creator Omar Suarez and host Diego Palaez, as reported to Vegas 411 by one of the cast members. A reader also tells Vegas 411 that another physical altercation recently took place on stage between Suarez and a dancer during an actual performance The event was reportedly video recorded, although that has not been confirmed by us.
In recent weeks, the cast of UNCENSORED has dropped from eight members to only three, with the other five reportedly leaving over disputes with Suarez. Host "Shannel" also quit in September, citing a lack of payment by the producers as the reason for her departure.
A call to Treasure Island this evening confirms that the show is permanently off the schedule, and third-party ticket sellers have been notified to discontinue sales. However, the official UNCENSORED THE SHOW website continues to have tickets available for this evening, as well as for future performances. Calls to Senor Frogs restaurant, where the show was performed, were not answered.
"If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." - NEW YORK, NEW YORK (song)
Those lyrics, made famous by Frank Sinatra, praised the possibilities of being a star in the Big Apple. But even Frank knew that the city of Las Vegas is a different matter entirely. Countless successful productions from around the nation have flopped when transplanted here. "Avenue Q", "Spamalot", "The Producers", and "Mama Mia!" are just a few of the hits that crashed and burned on the Strip.
The odds of success become exponentially slimmer for international productions. "Fuerza Bruta" is a prime example. The long-running tent rave barely made a blip at Excalibur in early 2019, hampered by its vague title and lack of American brand recognition. You see, Vegas tourists aren't the kind to pick an unknown quantity. They want something recognizable, which explains why Blue Man Group rose from the dead earlier this year.
UNCENSORED INTERNATIONAL could have been...and should have been...the biggest and best male revue to hit the Strip in years. Featuring a jaw-dropping collection of barely-human Adonises, awesome choreography, creative production numbers, and imaginative costumes, it posed a real threat to MAGIC MIKE LIVE and CHIPPENDALES.
Both of those shows were still on COVID hiatus when UNCENSORED premiered in early June, and lines to get in snaked through the Treasure Island casino. The production had come out of nowhere, seemingly overnight, with billboards and taxi toppers all across the city. Friends and readers contacted me, asking what I knew about the sudden appearance of this upstart male revue. The simple answer was "nothing".
It's really unusual in my line of work to learn about an already-opened show from everyday people. Traditionally, we get advance press releases, requests to do stories, and/or invitations to attend a grand opening. But UNCENSORED popped in and hit the ground running. I reached out to an insider for contact information, but the folks at UNCENSORED didn't reply, so I nabbed a ticket and headed there to find out for myself.
The show originally opened in the second-level event space of Senor Frog’s, also home to Voss Events Drag Brunch. The unusual, sprawling layout of this venue would be a challenge for most productions, but UNCENSORED transformed it into something both intimate and epic. Three stages, digital backdrops, and all-around-you choreography made it truly immersive...and the show was amazing. My original review called it "The biggest surprise of the season".
One of the producers asked me if I knew a publicist who could arrange a launch party, which of course I did. UNCENSORED was officially announced at an expensive event for the media. During the celebration, head producer Omar Suarez explained that he had visited Las Vegas prior to the pandemic and attended Drag Brunch in that very room. Blown away by host Shannel, Suarez decided to create an American version of UNCENSORED with the popular drag queen as its host. It had already been running in various forms around the world for ten years.
Things came together beautifully and the show was head and shoulders above anyone's expectations. But shortly after the media event, ticket sales started to plummet, and things began to fall apart behind the scenes as well. One of the guiding forces left abruptly, members of the crew were let go, and certain numbers were cut, along with a spectacular flame effect that most likely was against fire regulations. The performance schedule was altered, and one dancer left due to an injury, never to return.
After already spending enormous amounts on billboards, Suarez realized that his marketing approach wasn't working. A frequent comment was that the advertisements made the show look like a gay revue, complete with leather outfits and fetish accessories. But instead of launching a new campaign and setting up a casino box office to sell tickets, the producer sent his dancers onto the gambling floor to pass out leaflets. Then he resorted to forcing them outside in the oppressive heat, strolling up and down the Strip. The hard-working men, already performing two shows on some evenings, weren't being paid for these extra duties. The schedule was increased to seven nights a week as well...and the performers' frustrations mounted.
Knowing my enthusiasm for UNCENSORED, a couple of the dancers approached me for help. They hoped that I could bring in some people who would want to take over advertising, marketing, and ticketing, or perhaps even become investors. They also longed for a proper theater instead of the banquet room of a Mexican restaurant.
I contacted some friends in the industry who might be able to help...experts in marketing, digital advertising, ticketing, and show production. They all met and hashed out possibilities for hours. An offer was made, including the opportunity to move UNCENSORED into a proper showroom that would have been an ideal fit for the production. But Suarez and his associates balked, citing loyalty to Senor Frog's, and he exited the meeting without a deal.
The biggest hit besides this one had already occurred. After two months of performances, Senor Frog's informed UNCENSORED (and DRAG BRUNCH) that they would have to immediately move to the restaurant's first-floor dining room. Explanations have ranged from a spontaneous renovation of the second floor to rumors of safety violations in electrical and fire systems. As you might imagine, doing two Vegas productions in a restaurant proved disastrous. Temporary barricades were erected between the dining room and an outdoor patio, relegating Senor Frog's regular customers to the sweltering heat. Makeshift stages were created using wobbly dining tables, resulting in dancers, audience members, and chairs often plummeting to the floor.
By late September, both MAGIC MIKE LIVE and CHIPPENDALES had made splashy returns. UNCENSORED was now playing to audiences that often numbered less than two dozen. Suarez fired his stage manager, who returned to Mexico. He then reached out to me via text, inquiring as to why my associates hadn't followed through on their proposal, apparently forgetting that he'd declined it outright. He then brought back the same stage manager, promoting him to emcee after Shannel and swing host Roxy Brooks exited. Shannel explained to me that she hadn't been let go. "I decided I'd no longer work because they owe me a month of pay....they just have no money".
As of this writing, UNCENSORED continues to limp along. The schedule has been reduced to five nights, and weekend late shows have been eliminated. What's unknown is whether it continues to perform in the dining room, as I've stopped attending. Quite frankly, it's too depressing to see a troupe of bitter, disillusioned entertainers going through the motions in a nearly empty space.
The saga of UNCENSORED is a textbook example of what not to do with a Vegas production. If you don't have plenty of spare cash, insider knowledge, the ability to make changes, and a crackerjack marketing team, you might find yourself in the desert with just the shirt on your back. Or even less.