Performers give good shows for moderate cost

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LAS VEGAS -- While Las Vegas headliners and production shows are generally familiar to even infrequent or first-time visitors, what those folks may not realize is that there is a vast and varied world of entertainment beyond the big-ticket showrooms.

As a fertile starting point, some of the town's top talent can be found in hotel casino lounges. While most lounges showcase talented acts -- the entertainment directors see to that -- certain offerings are worth extra comment.

For example, "Soul Desire," in the Big Apple Bar at New York-New York, is a duo whose classical training is evident in their highly polished musical journey through pop, rock and R&B. They're enhanced by a four-piece band and a couple of backup singers who also take turns in the spotlight.

Meanwhile, tourists heading downtown will find a little gem of a show called "Jump, Jive an' Wail" at the Fremont Hotel, tucked into the refurbished lounge now renamed the Aloha Cabaret.

It stars Robbie Howard, whose musical impressions are pure fun, accompanied by a band whose big, booming beat often rocks the whole room.

For the late-night crowd, a Saturday night treat awaits in the Le Bistro Lounge at the Riviera, where the brass-heavy Lon Bronson's All-Star Band performs big band sounds, saloon standards and classic jazz.

Fans of magic can travel to the Orleans on West Tropicana for the "X-treme Close-Up Magic" of Steve Dacri in Brendan's Pub (soon moving to the adjacent Sazio's).

Dacri interacts with audience members who assist him onstage -- or right at their tables -- as he has his way with coins, sponge balls, cards and scarves, while a videocam catches all the moves (but not the secrets) and projects them onto a series of screens.

Mike Close also brings the magic right to your table, one on one, in the Houdini Lounge at the Monte Carlo Hotel & Casino, performing Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

What's more, between tableside sessions he settles in at a piano and proves he's not only a magician but also an accomplished musician.

Many noteworthy acts populate other non-main showroom venues, topped by the always outrageous Monti Rock III, who, in his colorful and inimitable style, emcees a doo-wop show at the Castaways.

Or visitors may opt for such thoroughly enjoyable performances as Hawaii's Society of Seven at the Aladdin, Second City at the Flamingo Las Vegas, the Ultimate Variety Show at the Venetian or the Mac King comedy magic show at Harrah's.

These are some of the ways to steer clients toward great values.

For tickets that rarely top $30, or sometimes just for the price of a drink or two, a lounge is the place to go.

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For more details on this article, see Sampling the ultralounge, the hip hotel nightspot.

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