Shows seek new shine in spiffier spaces

If they can’t make the entertainment new and different, how about the places where we see it?

You wouldn’t hear the idea expressed exactly that way from casino executives. But some new projects in the works take a long overdue look at theater design, one area in which traditional Las Vegas shows might just regain some competitive ground against the nightclubs.

Last week, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas announced Bruno Mars will play eight dates in The Chelsea, a new 3,000-capacity venue that will reroute concerts from a hotel ballroom.

Press releases describe The Chelsea, opening New Year’s weekend, as “transformable,” promising “a more avant-garde approach to meetings and entertainment than currently exists in Las Vegas.”

The old warhorse of a theater at Planet Hollywood Resort also has been reconfigured to be more clublike, with a general admission area and VIP table service for its upcoming Britney Spears dates.

Meetings and convention gatherings keep most showrooms and theaters from being wasted space in the daytime. Perhaps that’s the reason why no one has pushed harder to marry nightclubs and conventional shows in the same venue.

It’s an idea that dates back to at least 2001, when Carmen Electra was to star in “Lumiere” at the Aladdin (now Planet Hollywood Resort) in a space that’s now a traditional theater.

As described at the time, “When (the) show ends, the audience will be encouraged to stick around to party, and to watch the retractable seating fold into the walls to reveal the dance floor.”

The Aladdin went bankrupt before the hybrid idea could be put to the test. The years since have seen the two markets more clearly separated. It would be the rare show — the Jabbawockeez, maybe — that wouldn’t see the sit-down audience scurrying for the exits as soon as the DJ’s bass thump kicked in.

So maybe the hybrid idea lies more in “environmental” entertainment, a merger of club and show that could offer something more than the audience walking in, sitting down for 90 minutes and then getting up to leave.

Beacher’s Madhouse will open in December at the MGM Grand. It was last seen in the bygone showroom at the Hard Rock Hotel.

This time, the modest space that for years hosted the topless “Crazy Horse Paris” will, according to a press release, have visitors enter through “an inconspicuous speakeasy-like passageway hidden behind a library bookcase, and travel through a tunnel leading them from their ordinary existence into a fantasy-filled realm,” outfitted with both a main stage and “15 stages throughout the venue.”

The Cosmopolitan also is at work on a club called Rose.Rabbit.Lie. According to another florid press release, it promises “an entirely new genre that blurs the lines between restaurant, bar, club and show to create a grand social experiment.”

If I’m translating correctly, it sounds a bit like the Pussycat Dolls Lounge, which took the burlesque brand into an annex space of the Pure club at Caesars Palace for several years.

Call it irony or symmetry, but it’s interesting that the Beacher project occupies the same space as Crazy Horse Paris. The last time I saw the cabaret revue I remember what a long, deathly 15 minutes it was waiting for the show to start in a numbingly calm theater.

The Horse apparently pitched a more Pussycat loungelike experience too late, after Beacher had already worked his charms on MGM executives.

But it’s nice to see these new ideas, which also can be traced back to “Absinthe” in front of Caesars Palace. That one took familiar circus acts into a cool European circus tent surrounded by an outdoor “midway.”

Those elements were toned down when “Absinthe” had to build a more permanent venue. Still, “Absinthe” made it harder for me to ignore how a dreary performance space can drain energy from the actual effort onstage.

Oh, what a difference a picture window made when “Tony ‘n Tina’s Wedding” moved into Bally’s old buffet. Or a floor-to-ceiling view making “Party Improv” seem more like a cool “find” than a doomed backroom venture at the Cabo Wabo Cantina.

We shouldn’t have to be so grateful for a window in Las Vegas, a city that’s known for nothing if not its ability to build cool stuff.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at or 702-383-0288.

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