Why you should care

Because on this night, it’s the hottest show in town. 

On a typical Monday night in Las Vegas, the lights of the Strip flash their familiar neon hue as tens of thousands of tourists, double-fisting fireballs and margaritas, stream up and down the Boulevard. But a few streets west of the glow of the Bellagio, on a dark, industrial stretch, there’s a different kind of entertainment going on — less flashy and more intimate, with a do-gooding agenda.

Twice a month you can catch a show called Mondays Dark, a charity-variety show that’s essentially a hangout for some of the most talented folks in town. Mark Shunock, a Lion King veteran who played Lonny in the Venetian Theater production of Rock of Ages, founded the event as a way to have the Strip’s prodigious talent work together for a good cause. “Monday is traditionally when theaters are dark,” when no shows are going on, Shunock explains. In 2013, he and his wife, Cheryl Daro, also a stage performer who’s appeared in BAZ — A Musical Mash-Up, decided to put together a variety show “and invite all of the entertainers we know” to perform on their night off. The goal: to raise $10,000 each night for a featured charity.

It might be the cast of Jersey Boys singing a Madonna song or a ’70s hit.

Four years and more than 60 charity recipients later, Mondays Dark, which takes place in the Space, a 300-person-capacity performing arts building, has become a bona fide insiders’ party. For the ticket price of $20 — a fraction of what you’d spend on any headliner show on the Strip — you can see performers out of costume and on a very different stage. Cirque du Soleil performers who are usually covered in makeup and doing acrobatics get to do something that they normally wouldn’t do, Shunock explains. Or it might be the cast of Jersey Boys singing a Madonna song or a ’70s hit. “They get a chance to let their hair down,” he adds.

On a recent Monday night, the theme was music from Pixar movies. Mark O’Toole, who tours in a show called A Night at the Copacabana where he sings from the Barry Manilow canon, sang “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” the Randy Newman classic from Toy Story. Another standout was Michael Shapiro — who plays Bruce Springsteen in World’s Greatest Rock Show — performing “Get Your Kicks on Route 66” from Cars, followed by an impromptu “Born to Run.” Meanwhile, Pip Comic Illusionist did a bit with strings and balloons as a tribute to the opening sequence of Up.

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The 90-minute show is hosted by the very funny and bawdy Shunock, who tells decidedly R-rated jokes and banters with his stage cohorts, vocalist Jassen Allen and an incredibly talented seven-piece band (all while doing Jell-O shots with the audience). And, true to the entertainment ethos of the city, the party goes on long after curtain time, with drinks pouring indefinitely at the bar in the Space’s lobby.

Half the fun of Mondays Dark is that the performers are kept secret — you won’t know who’ll show up until that night. “Sometimes entertainers just show up unannounced, and we’re never going to turn somebody away,” Shunock explains. If Louie Anderson comes in the door and says, “Hey, I want to do five minutes of stand-up,” it’s going to happen, he adds.

Given the variety of talent that dots the Las Vegas Strip, from acrobats to magicians to comedians to singers, that $20 admission price is likely the surest bet you’ll make in this town.

Go There: Mondays Dark

  • When to catch a show: There are 21 shows a year. Dates available at mondaysdark.com.
  • Address: 3460 Cavaretta Court, Las Vegas (map)
  • Ticket price: $20 for general admission, or $50 for premium table seats right next to the stage. Reserved seating can also be purchased for $30.
  • What to expect: This show is for adults only. If you’re easily offended, give it a pass. Think raunchy comedy-club material, but with lots of great music thrown in.
  • Pro tip: Don’t come on an empty stomach — those Jell-O shots will hit you hard.

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