Seen and Heard: News from Las Vegas: The new nickname for Las Vegas, long known as Sin City, is Broadway West, but the jury is still out as to the long term success of Broadway musicals in the land of slot machines and buffet dinners. Mamma Mia! is a hit, yet Avenue Q didn’t run more than a few months before announcing it would pull up stakes and hit the road at the end of May, in the more traditional way of life beyond Broadway. We Will Rock You has also closed its doors. But the Vegas producers are going to keep on trying, with a new state-of-the-art theater (whose cost has been touted at anywhere from $25 to 40 million) being built specifically for the Vegas version of The Phantom of the Opera (directed by Harold Prince) at The Venetian, and there are rumors of The Producers also being snipped to Las Vegas size (90 minutes, no intermission) and heading out west. Word on The Strip is that Spamalot will open at the Wynn Resort in 2007.
The new theatre for The Phantom of the Opera will be designed to look like a 19th-century Parisian opera house by David Rockwell of the Rockwell Group, and will be outfitted for spectacular special effects, some of which are being created by Scott Fisher and Fisher Technical Services. The sets will be based on the original London and Broadway designs by the late Maria Björnson.
David Rockwell is also currently represented in Vegas with Hairspray for which he designed the sets for the Broadway production, and reworked them for the Vegas version, now playing at The Luxor (in the theatre recently vacated by Blue Man Group, who are now also at The Venetian, in a wildly renovated former club, C2K). Hairspray features the fabulous Harvey Fierstein, who originated the role of Edna Turnblad on Broadway and is also starring in the Vegas version, which in addition to Rockwell’s sets also has swinging 1960s-style costumes by William Ivey Long, lighting by Ken Posner, and sound design by Steve Canyon Kennedy.
Of the non-Broadway shows in town, the quintessential Las Vegas revue, Jubilee, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in July. Of course Cirque du Soleil is still the leader of the pack with four shows running concurrently and a fifth getting ready to open in the former Siegfried and Roy theatre at The Mirage, bringing Cirque’s experience full circle as their first show in Las Vegas, La Nouvelle Experience was performed under a big top in on the grounds of The Mirage in 1992-1993, as Vegas dynasty was born. All that’s publicly known of the new Cirque du Soleil show is that it features Beatles music. Sounds as if, they too, are marching to the beat of a different drummer (will Ringo be in the wings?) or to paraphrase from Hairspray: “Hey Mama, hey Mama, look around, Las Vegas is moving to a brand new sound.”--Ellen Lampert-Gréaux