MEET THE TOURNAMENT OF KINGS CAST
Applause came early in life to Zack Moyes and it forged his future. He sang Heartbreak Hotel, complete with a classic Elvis hip shake, in the doctor's office when he was three. He moved on to staging plays and acrobatic performances in his home during grade school. Zack took second place in the Las Vegas Channel 8 News test on current events. At twelve, he opened a concession stand called the CafÃ© Cantada during soccer and baseball games at Black Mountain Recreation Center and at16 he launched a movie career as Cousin Denny in National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation with Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo. Along the way, he became an Eagle Scout and went on a mission to Australia for the Mormon Church. Soon after his return from Australia, he began working at the Playboy Mansion. Kelsey Grammar and Michael Keaton invited him to party with them and Grammar recommended Zack for the butler position at the Mansion because of his gregarious nature.
But Vegas is home and Zack returned to become part of a premier marketing team for U.S Marketing and Promotion. He got involved in the personal growth and development movement, which became a consuming passion. As a result of years of study, Zack put together a 54 minute video and wrote a book called Quantum Attitude: Understanding Wealth and Desire, which is sold on Amazon.com. Zack spent a year learning the body/brain relationship. He said there are three key components that must come from a place of acceptance and understanding: love, gratitude, and doing your best in any given situation. There are two primary paths Zach wants to follow in the future: Acting and sharing the message of growth and development via a vehicle like Ted Talks--in addition to his role as an understudy for the show villain, Mordred, played by Antonio Restivo..
As a member of the Tournament of Kings cast for a year, with performances in 100 shows, Zack enjoys his co-workers and interacting with the audience. As an understudy to Anthony, Zack feels the role of Mordred offers unique challenges because of all the pyro effects. "You can feel the power of the flame. The roar of the fire and the heat combine to make a pressure you feel in your chest. Anthony taught me various techniques and above all ultimate respect for fire."
"Performing with the cast of Tournament of Kings is awesome. One memorable night, we lost the sound track and a horrible buzzing noise was coming from the speakers. Ivan was running into the arena at full tilt, trying to figure out how to keep the show going," Zack recalled.
"I took the Andalusian segment out because the horses know the musical score. Without hearing the music, a horse might have missed a cue and stepped on one of the dancers," said Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator Zack continued, "The audience knew the sound had gone out but they were cheering the cast on. It was really inspiring to see the performers come together in spite of what would normally have stopped a show."
"All the cast stayed in character. I was really surprised because most performers are not professionals with a show business background. They have to learn even the most basic show business principles, like respecting their costumes. The sound mysteriously came back on for the finale and we finished the show. I was proud of every performer, including the horses, that night," added Ivan.
Zack said his life goal is to be of service to others and to strive to be the best he can be every day. "Performing in Tournament of King's as Antonio's replacement on his days off has opened a new chapter in my life. I'm learning new skills, developing new friendships and loving every minute of this experience."
Fire. Smoke. Galloping horses. Clashing swords. Five Kings pledge their loyalty to King Arthur. Dancing maidens whirl through the arena, jangling tambourines and flashing smiles at handsome knights. On to this stage steps Merlin, Grand Wizard of Camelot.
As one of the central figures in the Arthurian legend that forms the basis of the story told in Tournament of King, Merlin warms up audiences and sets the stage for the action to come. Jared Tanner is uniquely prepared to play the unusual role of Merlin. Raised in California, his father and mother were immersed in the acting and musical culture unique to the West Coast. Jared attended the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, where he trained as a classical actor. His exceptional career path included the touring company of The Lion King, where he performed the diverse roles of ZaZu, Timon and Pumbaa. In 2013, while performing in Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, Jared lived through the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan. "It was an experience you'd never believe unless you lived through it," Jared remembered.
A career challenging opportunity arose when he became a lead role cast member with the Utah Shakespearean Festival. "I played King Lear and Twelfth Night - it was incredible. Through the time spent in Utah, I learned to expand my range, hone voice skills and perfect dialects," he said. He also performed in Noises Off and Land Me a Tenor.
Classical theater, improv, musicals, even performing as the loveable animals ZaZu, Timon and Pumbaa gave Jared the incredible skill to take on dual roles in Tournament of Kings. As Merlin, he dons a 45 pound costume and becomes the mythical magician of King Arthur's court. While the part offers freedom with the audience, which brings out his improvisational ability, there are other segments of the show that are tightly choreographed. Jared has to keep up the rhythm and flow of the show. "This role is more demanding than most because you have to be cognizant of what is going on at all times in every part of the arena. The show is filled with action and pyrotechnics, to say nothing of the amount of people and animals you have in the arena at any one time," Jared stated.
Then, as if Merlin was not demanding enough, Jared rushes backstage to change costumes and transform into a completely different character: Master of the Games. The Master is a driving part of the show from beginning to end. "You are responsible for the quality of the show. It is one hour and fifteen minutes of running back and forth and this is where theatrical experience comes into play. I can't be out of step by one second or the rhythm of the show gets out of sync. Tournament of Kings is live theater with an edge," he explained.
Jared's classical acting is also called upon in a way most people never think about. "I developed a back story for the Master of the Games. He's not a king but an older knight who has been through many battles." Jared continued, "This time period is alluring and the show gives people permission to be rowdy and have fun."
In his life away from Tournament of Kings, Jared is working on a second album with his life partner, Andrea Jones, whom he met during their engagement in The Lion King. "The music is acoustic rock with a spiritual quality. I play guitar, which I learned playing the youngest role in Woodie Guthrie's American Song. Andrea is co-writing and singing with me. We hope to have an album finished in the next few months," Jared said with passion. And to add to his busy schedule, Jared also sings with a band called The Mysteries Gone.
The medieval King of Spain's life would pale in significance compared to the day-to-day existence of Native American Tournament of Kings stuntman and actor, Derek Hinkey. Born on the Paiute/Shoshone reservation on the Oregon-Nevada border, Hinkey learned horsemanship from the time he was a toddler. His childhood was spent on a ranch, where his family raised Black Angus cattle. As a child, a horse tossed him into a field and its hoof left an impression in Hinkey's chest–which he can feel to this day.
His brother, Tyler, noticed an advertisement for stuntmen/riders for Tournament of Kings. Since he'd been breaking colts for his dad since his teens, Hinkey decided to audition. Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator, watched him ride around the ring a few times, where his horsemanship was evident as was the bond between horse and rider. "You look for an aura, and watch how the horse reacts to the rider. It has to be a team effort to pull off the tight choreography of stunts, falls and swordsmanship. You get a sense for what is inside a guy and whether or not he'll fit in with the group," said Caulier. When Hinkey told his dad he got the job in Tournament of Kings and described what he'd be doing–his father quipped, "Now you're going to fall off a horse, after all the years I spent teaching you to stay on one!"
He began his boxing career early in life. In 2004, he was a member of the U.S. Elite Boxing Team earning the position as a top contender on the Western Olympic Boxing team. Hinkey fought professionally in Mixed Martial Arts competitions, but a hand injury that never healed properly slowed his MMA career.
Today, among other achievements, Hinkey is a professional prize fighter. While fighting as an amateur, he racked up an impressive 132 wins and 13 losses and 9-1 record after he turned pro. In a recent interview with John Tandy of TitleBoxing.com, Hinkey was asked how he would describe himself as a boxer. "I have Rocky Balboa's heart, Apollo Creed's boxing skill, Ivan Drago's punch, and Clubber Lang's toughness." He has also been a training sparring partner for some of the best boxers and fighters in the UFC, as well as devoting time to being instructor and coach at Cobra Kai Jujitsu.
As a man who is proud of his Native American heritage, he said part of what drives him is the honor and happiness he brings to his family and native people. Hinkey added, "My story is really the story of a small town and the Paiute/Shoshone peoples. I would not be who I am without my community. My hope is to restore hope and a belief in themselves." His life goals include, "... learning as much as I can so I can take back that knowledge to my reservation and continue to try and help the next generation."
Dance has a long history in Patricia Bouchebel's family. After several years in the Paris Opera, her French mother established dance schools in Africa, France and Lebanon. Her mother started Bouchebel on the road to a career in dance when she was only two years old.
From Nice, France, the family moved to her father's native country, Lebanon. As tension in the Middle East began to escalate, her father moved the family to the Ivory Coast. After eight years in Africa, they returned to Lebanon. At the age of 15, Bouchebel's father had her join the Lebanese army because he wanted her to learn how to survive. In the military, Bouchebel shaved her head and learned to control her emotions under any given circumstance. But she never stopped dancing and taught fellow soldiers all styles of dance moves in exchange for knowledge of martial arts. During her tour of duty in the Lebanese army, Bouchebel suffered a hip injury that threatened to plague her potential dance career. A friend introduced her to the philosophy of Pilates, and through diligent effort, Bouchebel cured the issues with her hip.
What her father did not count on was the growing sense of independence fostered in Bouchebel. When her stint in the army was over, she boarded a plane for Nice and enrolled in the prestigious Les Ballets Serge Alzetta, a private dance school and professional dance company. At school, she continued to work on diverse dance techniques in classical ballet, jazz, African, contemporary and tap, as well as acting. To add to the wide repertoire of dance styles, Bouchebel trained professionally in the Argentinian tango, salsa, rumba, chacha, jive, passo doble–also becoming proficient in Lyra aerial work, Spanish rope and the acrobatic pole.
It was always Bouchebel's goal to come to America. As she flew into Las Vegas over The Strip, Bouchebel said she knew this was where she was meant to be. After winning 1st place in five dances in the Latin and tango division for the Nevada Starball Ballroom Competition, an audition for a dancer in Tournament of Kings brought her to the castle.
Her love of horses and the dance found fulfillment at Excalibur. "I like this show because it is filled with action and gives people a sample of what it might have been like to watch knights jousting atop magnificent horses racing toward one another at full gallop. It is also a unique experience to dance in six inches of sand on the arena floor–unlike classical ballet that takes place on a smooth, wood stage," she said. "I also enjoy the camaraderie of everyone in the show. Live action demands strict choreography–everyone, including the horses, must know their part and act in complete harmony every minute."
Not one to slow her career momentum, Bouchebel also choreographs, performs with different artists and judged the 2013 National Pole Championship presented by a pole sport organization here in Las Vegas.
As for what the future holds for Bouchebel, she is currently studying Spanish so she can work as a multilingual interpreter. Already fluent in French, Lebanese, English and Spanish will soon be added to her list of language skills. "I love languages and realize someday I may not be able to perform–although I'd love to expand into more choreography in the future. Today, she also teaches private Pilates classes to people with injuries because of her success in curing the physical limitation that might have ended her dance career.
Bouchebel and her dance partner, Miguel Reyes-Santiago, recently had the opportunity to choreograph and dance in a Celine Dion music video, "Qui Peut Vivre Sans Amour," shot in Las Vegas. Scenes were filmed in the desert on a dry lake bed, in downtown Las Vegas, the parking lot in front of the old Huntridge Theater and in-studio with Celine Dion herself. The producer of the music video had recommended Bouchebel and her dance partner and it only took a few minutes for Dion to decide she didn't need to audition anyone else. Because the song is in French, the video is only being broadcast in Canada and Europe but it can be viewed on YouTube via this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUerI5OFf7k
It's not often you find a native born Las Vegan in a town peopled with transplants from around the world. Garrett Parris grew up in an environment far different than the megaresort capital this city has become. After graduating from Bonanza High School, he enrolled at UNLV. To fund his schooling, Parris landed a job in the original King Arthur's Tournament as the keyboardist in the three-piece band. In 1993, live music was the standard at Strip hotels. In addition to paying his tuition, it fueled his passion for music.
At that time, King Arthur's Tournament included a trick rider act, which featured a real cute girl that caught his eye. So Parris got up the nerve to ask Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator, if he could learn to be a knight while simultaneously mastering trick riding and practicing with the troupe. Always one to encourage young men with a love of physical action–Caulier let Parris train for the part. "It was a lot harder than it looked and some of the most physically demanding and complex work I've ever done. I trained every day for a year–real hard–while I was still playing in the band," Parris recalled. Caulier was impressed with Parris' natural ability with horses so he utilized him as a "fill-in" knight, a role he played for five years. At one point, Parris held three positions in King Arthur's Tournament: Keyboardist, trick rider and the King of Hungary.
In 1999, his love of music demanded Parris follow his heart to Nashville, the center of the country music industry. To keep body and soul together, Parris worked as a valet at the Opry Land Hotel and performed with King Arthur's Tournament during vacation breaks. He transferred all his credits from UNLV and Colorado University and enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University, where he graduated with a BS in Recording Industry/Mass Communications. It was a 60-mile round trip to school and back, but it was all worth it when he landed a dream internship in the A&R (Artists and Repertoire) department at Sony Records.
For the next six years, he wrote and produced songs for Magic Mustang Music, the publishing arm of Broken Bow Records. The famous country group, Lone Star, recorded one of the songs he co-wrote, "What She Had To Do." Parris experienced the full music spectrum in Nashville, from producing and engineering to co-writing Lee Brice's first record, "Four On The Floor." He went on to produce and perform with Crossin' Dixon, a group he traveled with for three years.
After 13 years in the music industry, Parris decided to return to Las Vegas. He looked up Caulier just to let him know he was back in town. Caulier immediately offered him his old job back as the King of Hungry. "Parris has a gift for being on stage. The arena requires a strong performance and the fights are athletic events as demanding as soccer or football. I knew he'd get right back into it–and he gives a convincing performance every time. I can count on Parris, and the younger cast members look up to him," Caulier said. "While I'm glad to be back in Vegas close to my family, I'll still create music the rest of my life. It's at the core of my being but I love Tournament of Kings, the cast, the crew and the horses," added Parris.
In December 2001, King Arthur's Tournament closed and two weeks later Tournament of Kings opened. "It might be the fastest show turnaround of all time," said Caulier. "King Arthur's Tournament was a well-oiled machine. Both actors and horses knew their parts. Sometimes the horses knew their parts better than the men riding them. One evening a horse and knight were awaiting their cue off stage. Apparently, the knight was thinking about something else because when the trumpet sounded, the horse took off and left the knight sitting in the dirt. The horse continued on, performing his role flawlessly and returned to his stall as the music faded. The knight took a lot of ribbing from fellow cast members for months afterward," Caulier laughed.
Mark Ward was born in the Bronx but grew up in Westchester County, New York. Like most kids, he grew up with dreams but Ward's dreams took him down a road less traveled. He didn't want to be like Superman, he wanted to BE Superman. Ward worked hard at developing a strong physique and unique physical agility. He set his sights on becoming a professional wrestler and headed to Louisville, Kentucky, home of the WWE Developmental Territory. After two years on the Ohio Valley Wrestling, Ward headed to Las Vegas because he had a friend living in the city and figured it was on the way to LA, his ultimate destination to pursue an acting career.
He got a job as a centurion at Caesars Palace and, before long, a friend told him to go to an audition for Tournament of Kings. Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator for TOK, interviewed Ward and hired him on the spot as one of the "muscle men" in the show. TOK allowed him to attend auditions in LA and he spent a lot of time on the road. "It wasn't unusual to get in my car and drive to LA, attend a couple of auditions, and drive back to Vegas in time to perform in the show. I was used to a lot of driving when I worked the wrestling circuit because matches were usually in a different city every night." Caulier said he worked with a stunt double on The Three Musketeers in France by the name of Christophe Malavoy. "This guy worked in acting for 10 years before he got a break. Christophe survived eating one sandwich a day and was a minute away from quitting altogether. But he got one small part and his performance was great. That part led to something bigger, and his career snowballed from there. Now he's one of the major stars in France. Never give up–you don't know what big break is right around the corner," Caulier advised Ward.
After two years, the lure of LA and an acting career called him to take the plunge full time. "I'm an all-in kind of guy. I decided I had to give it my full best effort. I made up my mind. I didn't want to be one of those guys who lamented 'What if I had done this or what if I had done that?' I did whatever it took to keep my name out there. I landed a manager who really worked the system for me. He even secured a guest star role in Modern Family. My character was a drug dealer in a courtroom. It was great experience and I loved every minute but most of my performance ended up on the cutting room floor–but I still get residuals and met some great people," he said.
Ward still actively pursues acting and dabbles in wrestling. "I just can't give it up all together. Performing in front of a live crowd is the greatest thrill in the world. I even tried my hand at stand-up comedy without a script for Garrett Morris' Open Mike Nite in LA. A friend who was taking an improv class with me said I needed to give it a try. Several of us decided we'd go and see what it was like. Because of that night several classmates changed direction and are now active on the comedy circuit. It's the sound of an audience shouting and cheering that gets in your blood. Performing in front of live audiences helped wean me off the wrestling high," Ward added.
Today, Ward also teaches wrestling to young people anxious to break into the business. "Most of what I do is teach them character development and how to deliver a believable performance. You have to sell a move–the crowd has to believe you," he cautioned. Vic D.Vine is his wrestling persona: One-Of-A-Kind Vic D.Vine and So Fine Vic D.Vine are his stage descriptors. "Vic is an arrogant bad guy. I like bad guys, they are more fun." Then there are the wrestling groupies. "Ring Rats" is the affectionate term for them," Ward chuckled, "Sometimes, you send them home with a good story to tell." Ward confidently added, "Passion for something is a requirement if you're going to make the long haul. Wrestling prepared me for the harder side of life. It's all about the associations with people you meet along the way."
Mordred, the very name sends shivers down the spine of anyone who knows the legend of King Arthur. A prominent character in the Arthurian legend, Mordred is known as a notorious traitor and his name is forever associated with villainy. Onto this stage, with roots going back to medieval times, steps Antonio Restivo playing the role of Mordred, maligned throughout history as the traitor who dealt King Arthur a mortal blow.
His love affair and fascination with fire began with a random accident. At age 8, he accidently burned down his best friend's backyard fort and the fire consumed six acres of brush. His mother took the incident in stride since no one was hurt, but Restivo was hooked on fire for life. He grew up in Brooklyn, went to high school in Ft. Lauderdale, and attended college at Franklin Pierce University in southwest New Hampshire, where he graduated with a degree in theater and philosophy. And that's the point in his life where the adventure began.
After graduation, he lived a gypsy lifestyle traveling around the country in a van. He earned his way as a traveling one-man carnival. When an area took his fancy, he'd stop, pitch a tent and put on a magic and fire show. After the performance, he taught kids how to spin fire for free just because he loved to introduce them to an amazing skill.
Then, eight years ago fate stepped in. He was working for a publication geared for Las Vegas entertainers called Call Back. As chance would have it, Tournament of Kings placed an ad for a fire breather. Restivo stopped by Royal Productions and met with producer, Patrick Chambon-Jackson. Several ideas were discussed to add a new element to the show. "It was a gamble and we didn't know if we could find the right person for what we had in mind but one conversation with Antonio and we knew we'd hit the jackpot," said Ivan Caulier, show manager and stunt coordinator.
The pyrotechnics in the show utilize the unique talents of a group of friends self-titled "Brotherhood of the Flame." It took them four years to perfect the show sequence where Prince Christopher is surrounded by a group of Dragon Warriors in a circle of fire. Shields are placed in the dirt on the arena floor, where they are controlled by a wireless device. "A live show creates strong elements of danger. Performers can never become complacent. There is no margin for error. We have extras trained to jump in and continue on with the show if something goes wrong," Restivo explained.
His favorite prop is the trident which can shoot 18' of fire across the stage. He wears a backpack filled with fuel under his costume. "When I aim the trident and pull the trigger, it feels like an ocean of fire racing toward my target. All fire sequences are carefully choreographed. I have to stand on my mark and the other actor has to hit his mark at the precise moment the flame hits its maximum length. It's always a dance with fire and the slightest loss of concentration can have dire consequences."
His theater background prepared him to play the role of Mordred with the perfect blend of villainy and swashbuckling bravado. The costume cape sways with all the menace of Darth Vader and his maniacal laugh as King Arthur is mortally wounded chilling audiences over ten performances, six nights a week. "Keeping the cast tightly choreographed with their part in the pyro sequences is a demanding part of the show. There are so many moving parts, with multiple actors performing numerous functions it can be hair-raising when fire is added to the mix. We work on the pyro techniques constantly to keep actors sharp an on top of their game," Caulier commented.
"The thing I love about Tournament of Kings is they are open to new and expanded ideas. Whatever I can think of they are willing to try out. It keeps me invigorated and always thinking about the newest challenge. Tournament of Kings will never get old and audiences keep coming back just to see the new elements in the show," Antonio laughed with a hint of Mordred just beneath the surface.
Restivo also currently holds the Guinness World Record for the highest flame blown by a fire breather. On January 11, 2011, he rented a warehouse and spit fire 26' 5" to the ceiling. He prepared for the event by blowing up the long, thin balloons used by clowns–in one breath! He was also a finalist in the magic and fire category in 2010 on America's Got Talent.
When the magnificent Andalusian bay stallion enters the Tournament of Kings arena, an audible gasp arises from the audience. Surrounded by eight classically trained dancers in full medieval themed gowns, Nobilisimo takes his first regal steps in what is commonly referred to as “Horse Ballet”.
Nobilisimo is descended from horses that originated in the Andalusian region of Spain. An ancient breed, the Andalusian is thought to be the inspiration for the horse pictured in cave dwellings in Lascaux, France, which are over 20,000 years old. Homer penned the Illiad in 1,100 BC and described a horse that fits the size and characteristics of an Andalusian.
In the Middle Ages, the Andalusian was prized by European nobility for its ability to learn and even temperament. Hannibal utilized this large horse, along with elephants, to cross the Alps when he invaded Italy in 218 B.C. Richard the Lionhearted, King of England, and many of his knights rode the Andalusian into battle during the Crusades. Sir Walter Scott paid tribute to this noble horse in his classic novel, Ivanhoe. Cortez brought them to the New World and North American breeds such as the Quarter Horse and Morgan carry the bloodline of this ancient breed. Eighty percent of all modern breeds carry the DNA of the “Spanish” horse. Although a devastating plague nearly wiped them out during the Middle Ages, the popularity of the Andalusian is once again on the rise.
Prized for strength, agility, and beauty they are so strong and agile they can be trained to do amazing things, such as dressage. Dressage is a French term commonly translated as “training”. Classical dressage evolved from cavalry training for the battlefield. The high stepping in-place movement originated to keep a horse alert, warm and moving--ready to charge into battle a moment’s notice.
Patrick Chambon-Jackson, Producer, wanted to incorporate an Andalusian into the show. He was looking for a horse that would command attention that added a WOW factor. The hunt was on for a horse that had personality and presence, but was also calm enough to deal with lights, pyrotechnics and sword fights. Patrick flew to the south of France to scout for “the Andalusian” as well as having his team research possible local prospects.
The original owners of Nobilisimo sent Tournament of Kings production office a video tape of his performance capabilities. Everyone at Royal Productions agreed this horse had showmanship. The team flew to California to give Nobilisimo a “test ride.” No stranger to performing, as the star of parades and exhibitions, Nobilisimo was a crowd pleaser. Although Nobilisimo had several years of dressage training prior to his arrival at TOK, the team faced a big challenge in getting him accustomed to all the action in the show. Patrick had Ivan Caulier, his company manager and stunt coordinator, work with Jose Luis Flores, the horse trainer, to teach the horse to stay calm when the audience cheers, pounds the tables, knights duel, and fire fills the arena.