Monday, January 16, 2012

And There Was One, Broadway Long Runs in Las Vegas: 'Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular' To Close at the Venetian in September

Advertising at the Venetian/Palazzo for 'Phantom' and 'Jersey Boys'
(image: DurangoBeach/flickr)
When 'Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular' closes in Sin City on September 2, only one Broadway musical ('Jersey Boys') will remain playing in one of the major hotel resorts on the Vegas strip. It's unlikely any new New York musical will set up shop in this gambling mecca anytime soon. The dream of a "Broadway West" in this desert city has evaporated.

The stage musicals presented on the strip since 1993:
'Starlight Express' (Las Vegas Hilton, September 1993-November 1997)
'Chicago' (Mandalay Bay, March 1999-February 2000)
'Mamma Mia!' (Mandalay Bay, February 2003-January 2009)
'Avenue Q' (Wynn, September 2005-May 2006)
'Hairspray' (Luxor, February 2006-June 2006)
'Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular' (Venetian, June 2006-September 2012)
'The Producers' (Paris Las Vegas, February 2007-February 2008)
'Spamalot' (Wynn, March 2007-July 2008)
'Jersey Boys' (Palazzo, May 2008-January 2012; Paris Las Vegas, March 2012-open ended)
'The Lion King' (Mandalay Bay, May 2009-December 2011)

'The Producers' at the Paris Las Vegas.
(image: snakecharmed/flickr)
These productions were designed to play long-term sit-down runs in Las Vegas. Other productions such as 'Footloose' at the Rio or 'Smokey Joe's Cafe' at Caesar's Palace had definitive limited runs while other played on the strip as stops for a national tour. Some off-Broadway productions ('Blue Man Group') have made it to Vegas and these titles are not included on the above list. Although 'Chicago' was announced as a limited run at Mandalay Bay, the belief is if the musical proved successful its run would have been extended.

With most of these shows logging disappointing unprofitable short runs, it's likely that only 'Mamma Mia!', 'Phantom' and 'Jersey Boys' returned their investments with smaller profits made by 'Starlight Express' and 'Chicago'.

'Mamma Mia' banners at Mandalay Bay.
(image: hayncandi808/flickr)
Some critics called the selection of Broadway-type shows for Vegas a dud of a fad while others blame the current financial climate as well as the expensive economics to produce and run each show all the while maintaing the quality of a New York production.

There are some other extraneous reasons that caused the shuttering of some of these productions. The Las Vegas Hilton changed ownership in 1997 and the current owners chose to close 'Starlight Express' despite a planned five-year run. It is largely rumored that the 'The Lion King' was shuttered as Mandalay Bay wanted to accommodate a new Cirque du Soleil production based on the songs of Michael Jackson and the closing would allow for renovation of Mandalay's theater.

It was a great experiment, if one would accept that it was such, to compete against the Cirque Du Soleil productions that multiply every few years. Even Cirque found a dud by their standards with 'Viva Elvis' at the Aria Hotel which opened February 2010 and will close August 2012.

The steps of Manadalay Bay welcomes guests to 'The Lion King'.
(image: dshalock/flickr)
In an attempt to generate interest in 'Avenue Q' at the Wynn, a Vegas
taxi decked out in fuzzy orange.
(image: drewinchicago/flickr)
For myself seeing these productions were my main purpose for returning to Vegas every three or four years since 1993. With the announcement this month of the 'Phantom' closing, it's likely I will require another trip before September.

Of course the closings and lack of new Broadway productions on the strip may be symptomatic of the opening of The Smith Center for the performing arts. Where Vegas largely lacked a traditional theater venue outside of casinos for touring Broadway productions, visitors and residents will now have a chance to enjoy these shows outside of a gambling environment. The $470 million Smith Center is located west of the Fremont Experience. Best of all the venue presents the perfect place for the strict limited run of one or two weeks that is normal for touring musicals.

On the calendar for the Smith Center's Broadway Las Vegas Series:
'The Color Purple' April 3-8, 2012
'Mary Poppins' May 22-27, 2012
'Million Dollar Quartet' June 12-17, 2012
'Memphis' July 18-22, 2012
'La Cage Aux Folles' August 14-19, 2012
'Wicked' August 29-October 7, 2012
'The Addams Family' November 20-25, 2012
'Anything Goes' February 5-10, 2013
'West Side Story' February 26-March 3, 2013
'Shrek the Musical' March 19-24, 2013
'Disney's Beauty & the Beast' April 16-21, 2013
'Billy Elliot the Musical' May 14-19, 2013
'American Idiot' June 11-16, 2013
'Catch Me If You Can' June 18-23, 2013

Click HERE for tickets and more info about these productions at the Smith Center.

The Smith Center
(image: tossmeanote/flickr)
'Hairspray' had folded four months after opening at the Luxor.
(image: grubby)
Some of the theaters in Vegas were renamed for the production it was
hosting. Here is the Grail Theater named for the object of obsession in
'Monty Python's Spamalot'.
(image: n-sai/flickr)
Las Vegas Hilton tokens advertise 'Starlight Express'.


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