It’s a somewhat familiar story – an ambitious, talented man leaves his small town and heads to the Big City to fulfill a dream. Only this particular dream involves some seriously heavy lifting…reimagining a familiar entertainment concept.
Fortunately for crooner Jonny Bird, patience, a burning desire, and the will to overcome major setbacks happened to collide while Las Vegas was in the midst of a major reboot. And just like that, the timing was right for JonnyBird: Rise of the Phoenix to take flight. Or so he thought (more on that in a bit).
You might be asking “Who the Hell is Jonny Bird?” and you wouldn’t be alone. World-famous caricature artist Neal Portnoy jokingly pondered the same question in a tongue-in-cheek YouTube video. The segment was created to announce his characterization of Jonny for a collection of fundraiser mugs. And even though he’s only been in town for a few years, Jonny has performed in just about every corner of the Las Vegas valley.
In early 2020, Bird teamed up with swarthy Golden Tiki regular Tony Felicetta, elegant Miss Mala, “Don Ho” tribute artist Dean Perry, and man-about-town JC Lopez to form the Sin City chapter of Crooners, Inc. The group was awarded “Reader’s Choice” for “Best Lounge Act” in Las Vegas Weekly‘s annual Best of Las Vegas awards the following year.
Now that he’s back with a solo career, Bird is ready to take on the city with a brand-new show. Rise Of The Phoenix: Up From The Ashes is a multi-media extravaganza that happily embraces the classic concept of dinner theater. Says Jonny:
“It will have the feel of an old-school dinner show with refreshed looks at older songs …and original songs that are built into the storyline.”A Chip and a Chair” could have been the title of the show. It’s a song about Vegas and having that one shot at life. If you have one chip and a chair at the table, you’ve got at least one shot. It’s almost autobiographical. I cashed out everything, but I’ve got one chip left, and that’s why I’m here.”
Jonny’s love affair with Sin City began in spectacular fashion. After marrying his lovely wife Anna over a decade ago, the newlyweds joined their family at a restaurant to celebrate the union. Anna fell asleep in the car afterward, waking at the Minneapolis airport. Jonny had surprised his bride with a honeymoon in Vegas. Their perfect trip became a frequent event, with Jonny booking Vegas gigs as part of his concert tours around the country.
When not performing here, the singer took in as many shows as he could, networking and looking for inspiration. He found it in The Bronx Wanderers. Near the close of that show, patriarch Vinny Adinolfi describes how he never gave up, fulfilled his goal to have a Las Vegas production, and encourages everyone in the audience to live their dreams. That’s when Bird decided to pack up the family and take the same chance. He was holding his chip and ready to take a chair at the gambling table.
RISE OF THE PHOENIX is a nod to the tumultuous experience that Bird and his family endured when transplanting to Sin City in the fall of 2018:
“Anna embarked on a journey across the country with our three kids and our dog Dudley, pulling a fully-loaded trailer with our show van. I remained in Minnesota to finish renovations on our house, prior to selling it. They arrived in Las Vegas two days later and checked into a hotel shortly before midnight.”
“With little more than an overnight bag and the clothes on their backs, they went to the van early the next morning only to find it wasn’t there. Neither was the trailer. We were robbed of everything we owned in barely a heartbeat.”
“All of our belongings, clothing, valuables, unreplaceable pictures and documents, family jewelry, office and show equipment, our kids’ lifetime piggy banks, laptops, tablets, hard drives, hand-sewn heirloom quilts, Anna’s professional and practice saxophones, antiques, a $3,000 set of restaurant cookware, and our entire office were all in there.”
Undaunted, Bird rebuilt the family’s belongings from scratch. Then he began to help others. When the pandemic shutdown crushed the hopes of just about every entertainer across the nation, Jonny came up with a way to lift their spirits. He penned “Alone, Together”, an anthem for unity in a time of crisis.
The music video featured Las Vegas favorites like The Righteous Brothers’ Bucky Heard, fellow crooner Mark O’Toole, Elisa Furr, Kelly Vohn, Amanda King, comedian John Di Domenico, and the two Vinny’s from The Bronx Wanderers.
Bird’s kindness, humorous outlook, and ever-giving nature have made him a treasured part of the community. His pals matched his generosity by filming a featurette that will open RISE OF THE PHOENIX. Originally set to debut at Gold Coast Casino in September of 2021, that date also fell victim to a series of unfortunate events.
Finally, in 2023, Jonny and his band are ready to make his dream project a reality. RISE OF THE PHOENIX: Up From The Ashes is the complete name for the production. which will perform this Wednesday at the ever-popular ITALIAN AMERICAN CLUB. Doors open at 6 pm, dinner service begins at 6:30 pm, and Bird takes to the stage at 8 pm. Tickets, which include a fantastic Italian buffet, can be ordered here.
The road to opening night has often seemed more of a gauntlet. But like the bird of its title, RISE OF THE PHOENIX will finally appear from the ashes. Jonny Bird promises that it will be worth the wait. As he says, “I was born for this”.
Article written by: Sam Novak
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