Some venues have been the kiss of death for Vegas productions.
The Las Vegas Strip has some of the most iconic performance venues in the country….perhaps the entire world. From the MGM Grand Garden Arena to Planet Hollywood’s ZAPPOS Theater, custom-built spaces for Cirque du Soleil’s The Beatles LOVE, KA, and MYSTERE to the iconic Caesars Palace Colosseum, we have it all. Legendary stars have eagerly taken to our stages, extending their careers well past what otherwise might have been an expiration date. Then there’s Adele, but that’s a different story.
Sadly, some Las Vegas theaters carry a horrible track record. Shows that should have been hits shuttered quickly, and some successful shows have moved into spaces that suddenly put nails into their coffin. Let’s take a look at a few.
Tropicana Hotel Casino is a bit of a tough pill. Despite an excellent location, historical legacy, and a major remodel, the 1,467-room resort is still seen by many as an “also-ran”. You’ll rarely hear people excitedly talking about a stay at “The Trop” unless their pool and central grounds are the focus.
Opened in 1973 as the “Superstar Theater”, Trop’s showroom has hosted well-known celebs like Gladys Knight, Wayne Newton, and the long-running (nearly fifty years) Folies Bergere. But that list is vastly outnumbered by the enormous collection of productions that came and went VERY quickly. Names like “Sideswipe”, “Cherry Boom Boom”, “Imaginarium”, “Band of Magicians” and Jan Rouven’s “Illusions” suffered the same fate as bigger shows like “Mama Mia” and “Raiding the Rock Vault”. In, out, and done, the end result was the same…an empty Tropicana Theater.
Most recently, the 1,100-seat showroom has been modernized to bring it in line with the rest of the resort. Old-school booths and tables were replaced with contemporary seating a few years ago. Warm earth tones and a powerful sound system make it comfortably appealing. It’s unfortunate that an ongoing problem with very expensive stage union rules has made it nearly impossible for shows to turn a profit.
Rumors abound that Tropicana will be leveled to allow for another sports venue. You can read about that here. However, the current line-up of tribute shows MJ Live, LEGENDS IN CONCERT and PURPLE REIGN has been a consistent draw. It will be ironic if the Tropicana Theater’s death sentence is finally broken by the ghosts of Michael Jackson, Prince, and Joan Rivers. But for now, the once-gloomy showroom is prospering again. Let’s hope it continues.
PARIS HOTEL SHOWROOM
Oh, where to begin with this one? Aside from a few long-running successes like Barry Manilow and Jersey Boys, the track record for Paris Hotel’s grand showroom has been nothing short of a disaster. Take a look at these failures: Mel Brooks’s “THE PRODUCERS”, “We Will Rock You”, “Marilyn – The New Musical”, “Inferno”, “Circus 1903”, “I Love the 90s”, “Notre Dame de Paris”, and many more.
Little has been done to make the Paris showroom a contender. Already battling a somewhat hidden location in the far southeast corner of the property, Paris Theater is drab, tired, and very dated. There is no real personality to the space, which seems in keeping with the continually de-themed hotel it calls “home”. Without a resident production, the theater has been dark since before the pandemic.
Things may be looking up, though. A strong buzz surrounds BAT OUT OF HELL, a fantasy jukebox musical based on the top-selling album by MEATLOAF. Travis Cloer of Jersey Boys is returning to his old stomping grounds, joined by Anne Martinez (BAZ) and a large cast of outlandish rockers. Check out the video clip below.
Much like its new home, BAT OUT OF HELL has a troubled history. Despite its success in London, a North American tour was riddled with delays and cancellations. A show-stopping stunt involving a diver was yanked from the U.S. production out of safety concerns, and a month-long stint at Orpheum Theater was yanked indefinitely in December of 2018 without explanation.
BAT OUT OF HELL opens on September 27th. Showtimes are Tuesday through Saturday at 7 pm with an additional 9:30 show on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets can be ordered here.
PLAZA HOTEL THEATER
Another old-school showroom is inside downtown’s PLAZA HOTEL CASINO. Once home to comedian Louie Anderson and a long-running stint for RAT PACK IS BACK, the historic theater has fallen on hard times. A variety of productions have died there, including ONE EPIC NIGHT, a collection of American Idol, The Voice, and America’s Got Talent finalists that should have been a home run.
Other flops include The Phat Pack, an ABSINTHE knock-off called Avant-Garde, and LOVERS OR LOSERS GAME SHOW, hosted by Todd Bridges (Diff’rent Strokes). LOVERS OR LOSERS was so cheap that the prizes being awarded were reportedly earned through a timeshare presentation.
There was a great deal of hype surrounding A MOB STORY, a well-reviewed production that nevertheless severed ties with PLAZA after only a few short months. There were reports that the show was in debt to the tune of one million dollars at the time of its closure. Plans were announced to move it to Mosaic Theater, which even advertised it on their outdoor marquee and inside the lobby. Nevertheless, A MOB STORY is dead. And aside from the occasional concert or event, so is the Plaza’s historic showroom.
ENCORE THEATER at Wynn Las Vegas
Never has the kiss of death been more literal than at Encore Theater. In late 2008, singer Danny Gans left a comfy gig (almost nine years and a self-named theater) at Mirage to join the entertainment lineup at Wynn/Encore. Eager to follow his longtime friend Steve Wynn, Gans signed a three-year contract with the Encore Theater. The new show opened on February 10th, 2009. Within three months, the 52-year-old Gans was found dead in his home under mysterious circumstances.
Encore Theater has undergone a variety of names since it opened. First, it was called “Broadway Theater, as a nod to its first production AVENUE Q. The adult puppet show, which was a hit on Broadway, belly-flopped in Vegas and closed after eight months. Ten months later, it reopened as “The Grail Theater”, where Broadway show SPAMALOT played from March 2007 through July 2008.
The venue’s name was changed yet again to Encore Theater in anticipation of Danny Gans and remains under that banner today. A very successful run by Garth Brooks was succeeded by SHOWSTOPPERS, yet another Broadway-style production. An expensive pet project created by Steve Wynn himself, SHOWSTOPPERS bled cash and the final curtain came down in 2016.
Just like PLAZA HOTEL, Encore Theater seems to have given up on resident shows and instead become a stop for headliners. Recent performances by Robbie Williams, Duran Duran, David Foster, Mel Brooks, Steve Martin & Martin Short will be joined by Adam Lambert and Diana Ross in the weeks ahead.