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Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Once upon a time, theatrical producers thought it a grand idea to mount abbreviated versions of their successful shows in the city of Lost Wages in hopes that it would attract tourists looking for the glitz and glamour of entertainment. They were wrong. Last year, I posted about the new trend of Broadway shows invading Vegas. Avenue Q decided to forego an opportunity to tour the country opting instead for an extended run in Las Vegas. The Wynn Hotel spent $40 million to build the 1,200-seat Broadway Theatre (within the Wynn resort) especially for Avenue Q. It seemed like a good (but) expensive endeavor, that producers were willing to gamble on. After all, Avenue Q won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical, was fresh, daring, funny and would play to diverse audiences streaming in and out of Las Vegas. What producers were banking on, isn't what they got.

In the last year, two Broadway shows opened in Vegas and both closed prematurely due to low ticket sales. There was great hope for both Avenue Q and Hairspray, but on May 28, only 9 months into its run, Avenue Q closed and today, only 4 months into its run, Hairspray announced the end of its Vegas engagement scheduled for June 11.

While it was an interesting concept, I feared that abbreviating these already successful Broadway shows would somehow compromise the integrity of what made the show work for any audience (not just a New York audience). After all, cutting 20-30 minutes from a show can alter it quite a bit. Is this what contributed to the fall of Broadway in the Desert?

When producers decided to cut scenes in their shows, they omitted some ingredient in what made a Broadway show formula work, didn't they? Or is there a real connection? For the Vegas run of Avenue Q, scenes were enhanced and minor book and score changes were made to better suit a Vegas audience while Hairspray became an intermission-less show omitting songs and streamlining the storyline. In my opinion, cut down the show = cutting into the integrity of the show. There really is no concrete reason why Avenue Q and Hairspray failed in Vegas yet Mamma Mia! (which has been running successfully for three years now in its entirety, intermission and all) and We Will Rock You at Paris Las Vegas for some reason shows no signs of slowing down.

Though interest in theatre doesn't seem to be particularly high at the oasis in the desert, theatrical producers aren't showing any signs of slowing down future production opportunities. Next up in the city of Lost Wages: Spamalot will replace the theatre (currently undergoing a huge overhaul) vacated by Avenue Q and an abbreviated version of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera (or Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular as its now being referred to) with never-before seen special effects will premiere at a new $40 million theatre at The Venetian, June 24.

How will Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular fare in Vegas? Only time will tell, but I suspect that there is a lot of hope for this production. While The Phantom of the Opera is the longest running show on Broadway (and is so for a reason), I imagine (and hope) that seasoned theatre pros, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and director, Hal Prince will work hard to keep the essence of the show intact while playing up to the expectations of would-be Las Vegas theatre go-ers. It will be tricky since The Phantom of the Opera has a complex story-line that doesn't really seem conducive to a trim. In an article last year, leading New York theatre critic Ben Brantley said, "So much of the Broadway audience now is tourists who want to approximate the experience of going to a theme park...people come to New York to see a 'jukebox musical'..." but in the case of Vegas, (I imagine) visitors want over-the-top, lavish, ostentatious entertainment they expect from the city. Of all the shows to mount in Las Vegas, I think Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular was a wise choice and I suspect it will do decent (if not spectacular) business for The Venetian as well as bring awareness to Broadway in the desert.

* * *

Broadway Show(s) currently in Las Vegas:
Mamma Mia! (Mandalay Bay) -- Celebrated it's 3rd Anniversary, March 2006.
We Will Rock You (that's only if you consider this to be a "Broadway-like" show) -- (Paris Las Vegas)

Coming Soon:
Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular (Summer 2006 at The Venetian)
Spamalot (2007 at Wynn)
Moving Out (not formally announced yet)
Wicked (not formally announced yet)

EFX (starring Michael Crawford)
Starlight Express
Miss Spectacular (though publicized, never materialized)
Avenue Q (Wynn) -- Closed May 28, 2006
Hairspray (Luxor) -- Closing June 11, 2006


Anonymous said...

We Will Rock You closed at the end of Nov. '05...

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