Broadway takes act to Vegas

Apr 17, 2006 3:29 AM

Last week, we announced that Phantom of the Opera opens on June 24. I know this is the smash show that we’ve been waiting for.

We’ll see about The Producers at Paris. The original Broadway show starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, and the original movie — way ahead of its time — featured Gene Wilder and a marvelous Zero Mostel. Mel Brooks, the brilliant writer, producer and director, turned this into a Broadway musical and a Tony Award winner. With a new cast, we’ll have to see how it will fare in Las Vegas.

Why is "Mama Mia" at the Mandalay Bay such a smash in its fourth year? Because it’s a no-brainer. At its heart is the music of Ava. Do you remember Ava? If not, then I couldn’t explain it to you.

It won’t be long before we’ll be seeing a Beatles musical from the Cirque people. Which begs the question, how much Cirque can one town have?

Let’s count the Cirque shows: We have the brilliant "O" at the Bellagio, Mystere at Treasure Island, Ka at the MGM, and Zumanity at New York-New York.

Zumanity is probably the edgy one of all the Cirque shows, but it is in the most magnificent theater built here in Las Vegas.

Then there’s La Reve at Wynn Las Vegas, a really high tech production, again with the water theme, along with circus stunts and acrobats.

At Caesars, we applaud how Celine’s show is staged, as she has become the international star with a bona fide hit in a New Age production show.

In the same vein, we have Dave Schapel master-minding Elton John and The Red Piano. It’s extraordinary when you put together the visuals of an international star and high technology. Of course, it helps when you have an ultimate entertainer like Elton John.

On another side of the spectrum, we have Barry Manilow at the Hilton, who signed on for another year. It helps that Barry’s demographic is the ever-eager women in his audiences.

At this point in time, I feel these three superstars — the headliners, the stars, the big productions — are at the top of the list of Las Vegas entertainment. As they should be.

On a sadder note, Avenue Q closes in May at a loss of $5 million, rumor has it. It’s a shame because of the beautiful theater that was built for Avenue Q. Unfortunately, it was all too sophisticated for Las Vegas.

On the other hand, Hairspray the musical at the Luxor with Harvey Feinstein is flying high. Maybe that tells you where our audiences’ collective psyche is located.

While we’re at it, let’s go back to what makes a show work. Remember Forbidden Vegas? Remember the Hunchback of Notre Dame? How about We Will Rock You, the Queen musical at the Paris?

Then a few years ago there was Chicago with Chiva Rivera and Ben Vereen, which didn’t fare too well, either.

Yet, a Lewis production called "Menopause" at the Hilton has added two more shows. It’s a first class production, starring Page O’Hara, a real Diva and the voice of Belle for Disney. This is an example of Broadway coming to Las Vegas, but it’s not an Upper East Side kind of snobby Broadway. In order to work here in Las Vegas, you need to appeal to the broader markets, the people who simply want to be entertained, without all the "hard work" that goes into embracing the higher-brow works.

Switching gears, here’s some artistic news we can all enjoy. There are some terrific New York designer shops headed to the Forum Shops, including Jimmy Choo and Christopher Bradley. If you want fashion flare, check out these boutiques.

For my fans who are curious about my New York days, the new Merv Griffin Show DVD is the ticket. In this week’s Entertainment Weekly, it says about yours truly: "There are no DVD extras. The bonus guests of each disk are just a few interviews. The most poignant is a 1966 glimpse of Monti Rock, III."

It goes on to say that I was a "non-talent of the sort that doesn’t exist now — a parody of a long haired rock star who was treated like a real one by Griffin and his baffled Big Band.

"Still the whole ambience of this put-on artist is utterly charming."

I like that: "non talent of the sort that doesn’t exist now." Kind of makes me feel immortal. Get the DVD so you can see more about the diva that is Monti Rock III!