‘Pawn’: Spoof positive that innovation can thrive

If big, bold experiments in Las Vegas entertainment were unraveling this week, smaller but still-encouraging ones continue.

At this writing, the environmental-theater “supper club” that is Rose.Rabbit.Lie. sounded as if it was becoming a casualty of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ new ownership.

The unbundling of the separately ticketed “Vegas Nocturne” from the restaurant side of Rose.Rabbit.Lie. is a surprise twist, since it was only July 2 that a show publicist pitched an interview with producer Ross Mollison to promote the 100th performance on Wednesday.

Instead, Mollison became unavailable amid talk the new owner the Blackstone Group (which has not yet been formally licensed) had decided to end the unique situation of “Nocturne” sharing pooled revenues with the food and beverage side of the operation.

That split made sense if you figure the venue isn’t a lease, but involved a team personally assembled by Cosmopolitan CEO John Unwin. And it seemed fair to pool and divide revenues, since the cast working beyond the ticketed show as environmental entertainers helped drive pricey food and drink sales. But it sounds as if the food and beverage side was subsidizing the show, which has proved difficult to separate from the larger product in the marketing and branding.

It’s said the new owners believe it will be cheaper in the long run to buy out Mollison’s Spiegelworld, freeing him to move the show and letting the venue function as a more conventional restaurant-club. …

At least another, much lower-budget experiment carries on, with a new version of “Pawn Shop Live!” launching Monday at the Riviera.

The “Pawn Stars” spoof is staying true to a previously announced rewrite that hopes to make it actually funny. The third version is subtitled “The Lost Episode,” as in the purported original pilot for HBO, director Troy Heard says.

The sketch comedy always had the endorsement of the real pawn guru Rick Harrison. But he is now the executive producer, and original producer Derek Stonebarger is no longer involved. Harrison recruited actor-comedian Howie Gold for a rewrite of the previous material written by Heard and the cast.

“Honestly, it’s a 180-degree turn. The script caught us all off guard when we first read it,” Heard says. “It’s so gritty and raunchy.”

Heard says the “tonal shift” from the first version, which briefly ran at the Golden Nugget last winter, is like going from “Laugh-In” to “Entourage.”

“There’s more of an emphasis on the guys themselves and less on celebrities stopping in and cheesy impersonations,” Heard explains. “Everyone just feels a lot better about the show now that it’s not silly. Because the guys aren’t silly.”

The spoof is worth rooting for, because the talents of Heard and a cast pulled from the local theater world help narrow the distance between the Strip and the interesting work produced beyond it. …

Oliva Newton-John’s commitment to the Flamingo always was positioned as open-ended, but it wasn’t until now that you could buy tickets for any shows beyond summer. But now the eternal pop star extends her Flamingo presence into fall and (slightly) into the new year. Tickets go on sale Friday for four more stints landing between Oct. 7 and Jan. 3. …

Finally, Gallagher doing stand-up without his sledgehammer at the Tropicana last year seemed kind of like Terry Fator without a puppet. So while you don’t have to believe the show title “Gallagher’s Last Smash,” you can be sure he’ll be smashing stuff in his limited run at the Golden Nugget through July 19.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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