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Characters invade Las Vegas, from the world of Tim Burton to the realm of Hello Kitty

“Tim Burton at the Neon Museum”
Creations that may be part of director and writer Tim Burton’s “Lost Vegas” show, which opens in October.
(Tim Burton)

The setup sounds familiar: A cat, a cowboy and an artist walk into a bar. The twist, of course, is that in Las Vegas, a cat can have her own coffee bar, a singing cowboy can command center stage, and a Hollywood film director can transform a neon sign boneyard into a fine-art exhibit.

On Oct. 15, film producer, director, writer, animator and artist Tim Burton debuts “Lost Vegas: Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum,” an outsized, walk-around exhibit of vivid cartoon art that roller-coasters through the Neon Museum’s Boneyard exhibition space, North Gallery and Boneyard Park.

“Lost Vegas” will be Burton’s first American fine-art exhibit since 2009, when he mounted a show that drew 810,500 visitors to New York’s Museum of Modern Art and included zingers like the prop of Sarah Jessica Parker’s severed head from Burton’s 1996 movie, “Mars Attacks!,” which liberally incorporated the Neon Museum.

Tim Burton
Tim Burton is creating site-specific works for his "Lost Vegas" show at the Neon Museum.
(Tim Burton)

Organizers of the show promise an even more over-the-top exhibit, allowing Burton to integrate the museum’s existing signs and artifacts with large-scale installations he’s created specifically for the museum’s outdoor spaces.

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“To say we’re flattered that Mr. Burton has chosen our museum for this exhibition would be an understatement,” said Rob McCoy, the museum’s president and chief executive officer. “But when you think about it, Tim is one of the few artists who can match the great imagination of Las Vegas.”

Tickets to the show, which cost $30, are on sale now. The exhibit runs from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily through Feb. 15.

Info: Neon Museum

Tickets also are on sale now for the launch of Atomic Saloon Show, a new mash-up of comedy, acrobats, vaudeville and burlesque (with a touch of “Blazing Saddles” and “Annie Get Your Gun”) from the team behind “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace and “Opium” at the Cosmopolitan.

Atomic Saloon
The Atomic Saloon opens Sept. 8 at the Venetian in Las Vegas.
(Mihaela Bodlovic / Atomic Saloon)

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The show debuts Sept. 8 at its own two-story theater, replete with multiple cocktail bars, booths and private dining rooms, inside Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. Atomic Saloon moves to Vegas after wrapping up a month of preview performances this week at the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, where it received raves from the Scotsman and a five-star review from the Times of London.

Set in a fictitious Wild West town near an atomic test site, the show is as rude, nude and wholly entertaining as you’d expect from a cast of characters that includes a sequin-bedazzled, guitar-playing, singing cowboy; an irreverent nun who performs unholy tricks with ping pong balls; and a whip-snapping proprietrix who bellows smoke when a sexy man saunters by. They share the stage with aerialists, acrobats, pole dancers and, because it’s Vegas, a pair of redneck cousins who also happen to be skilled Irish dancers.

“We’ve hired some of the most beautiful acrobats in the world, and we’re putting them in a tiny venue with only 250 seats so they’ll feel like they’re in your lap,” said producer Ross Mollison. “We look for fun and comedy, then create burlesque in a way that people haven’t seen before. It’s not just about taking off your clothes and jiggling around, though we’re not for everyone. People come to Vegas to have fun; they drive in from L.A. because Vegas is an escape. It’s our responsibility to give them fun experiences that they won’t find in their hometown.”

Tickets to Atomic Saloon Show begin at $68. Show times and dates vary.

Info: Atomic Saloon Show

Hello Kitty Cafe
The Hello Kitty Cafe in Las Vegas.
(Michael Hiller)

Don’t think for a minute that Kitty White (aka Hello Kitty) serves alcoholic beverages at her new permanent pop-up shop at the outdoor park across from Park MGM. After all, the fictional Japanese cartoon character who lives outside of London is a perpetual third-grade student who can’t legally serve cocktails, and since she’s depicted without a mouth, a mojito wouldn’t do her any good anyway.

You, though, may want one after opening your wallet to pay for an assortment of her pastries, iced teas, coffees, doughnuts and expensive pink-and-black HK merchandise. The selection of sweets and swag at the Vegas cafe, which is crammed into a converted shipping container painted radioactive pink, is more limited than at HK outlets in Japan or her storefront cafe in Irvine, Still, fans rarely seem disappointed to shell out $5 for a doughnut or iced tea, $5.50 for a lemonade or latte, or $30 for a Hello Kitty T-shirt.

Hello Kitty Cafe
Pastries and swag are all part of Hello Kitty's Vegas allure.
(Michael Hiller)

Adults without children may not understand her appeal, but the line to reach the cash register on opening day stretched five hours long. The queue is significantly shorter now (if any), but the brand remains a juggernaut. Since Hello Kitty was created in 1974, the brand has generated more than $80 billion in retail sales. The only cartoon franchise to sell more? Pokémon.

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Info: Hello Kitty Cafe


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