Myron Martin helped lure Broadway to the West more than a decade ago, and learned a painful lesson in the process.
He and Michael Gill co-produced the Broadway hit “Hairspray,” which opened in February 2006 for a wonderful, if ill-fated run at Luxor. Other musicals along the Strip included “Avenue Q” at Wynn, “Phantom – The Las Vegas Spectacular” at Venetian, and “The Producers” at Paris Las Vegas — earning the city the catchy “Broadway West” moniker.
But the success of these shows was sporadic. After promising previews, “Hairspray” fell flat. Even with a seasoned Broadway cast led by co-stars Harvey Fierstein and Dick Latessa, “Hairspray” closed after a four-month run. The end of that show shook Martin, who cried during the finale, but in retrospect he noticed an opportunity.
“Producing ‘Hairspray’ on the Strip was something that said to me, ‘There is an audience here for Broadway shows, but for locals,’ ” said Martin, now the president of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. Earlier in the week, he announced the center’s 2017-2018 Broadway Series at Reynolds Hall. “The preview weeks were primarily attended by locals. The place was filled with people who lived here. That gave me the confidence that Las Vegas wants to see big, touring Broadway shows.”
Over time, producers realized big Broadway shows were not so appealing to the mass of tourists coming to town, who would rather see Cher swap costumes than the Phantom hang from a chandelier. But the success of such blockbuster Broadway titles as “Wicked,” which has run twice at Smith Center, and “Book of Mormon” has fortified the city’s capacity to attract any title – for Reynolds Hall.
“Hamilton,” which Martin says is the “biggest, baddest Broadway show ever” highlights the 2017-18 season with a May 29-June 24, 2018 run.
“Broadway loves coming to Las Vegas, to the Smith Center, because we have a place where shows can come for a week, or two weeks, or six weeks,” Martin said. “It means we no longer have to have a place where they feel like they need to last forever.”
The length of the run and the target audience is the difference. If “Hairspray” had performed for just two weeks a decade ago in Las Vegas, it would be remembered as a hit — not as a four-month failure.
On the topic of Broadway and Vegas, former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman is backing the touring version of “Something Rotten!,” which plays Reynolds Hall from Aug. 8-13. Goodman is actually an original investor in the show, which closed its Broadway run Jan. 1 in advance of its national tour.
The bridge between Vegas and this show: Goodman and “Something Rotten!” producer Kevin McCollum have been conferring for at least a couple of years about a possible stage adaptation of Goodman’s life and career.
DANCE TO THE MUSIC
As anticipated, Wednesday night’s opening of the Backstreet Boys was some wild fun (example: The first word uttered from the stage in this entire residency was an F-bomb). Expect reports of consistent sell-outs at Axis theater, which takes on the look and feel of an oversized nightclub for BSB’s series of gyrating production numbers. They can still groove, that’s for sure, and I had fun attempting to keep up with some of their more advanced dance steps (one of which I called, “Try Not to Pull a Hamstring.”)
But even as Axis reverberated with pulsating music, I didn’t see any musicians in the flurry of activity.It would be great to see some musicians onstage, even a core band of five or six players. Setting a band onstage adds to the mood, and artistic credibility, of any “live” concert. Reps from Caesars Entertainment (which owns the venue), and Live Nation (which promotes the show) have yet to say if any musicians – even those out of sight — actually play live during the show.
THE BALD TRUTH
McMullan’s Irish Pub on Tropicana Avenue just west of The Orleans is again raising money and awareness for the St. Baldrick Foundation with its 11th annual shave-a-thon, from 11 a.m. Saturday through 3 a.m. Sunday. Emcees for the event include my colleague Robin Leach, longtime Vegas TV personality Nate Tannenbaum; Channel 3 anchor Gerard Ramalho, Vegas entertainers Clint Holmes and Kelly Clinton Holmes, actor Antonio Fargas (Huggy Bear on the original “Starsky & Hutch” TV series); Jennifer Romas with her cast mates from “Sexxy” at Westgate; and yours truly.
McMullan’s has served as the St. Baldrick Foundation’s fundraising epicenter since 2007. Other shave-a-thon partners include New York-New York’s Nine Fine Irishmen, RiRa Irish Pub at Mandalay Bay, Vinyl at Hard Rock Hotel, Sons & Daughters of Erin, Khoury’s Wine & Spirits, and Rancho High School. The New York-New York event is March 11, and at 2 p.m. that day I will have my head shaved for the fifth straight year. Once St. Baldrick’s gets ya, they got ya.
WHO WAS WHERE
On Saturday at Diana Ross’ final performance at Venetian Theater: Singer-songwriter Ashlee Simpson with Ross’ actor son, Evan Ross, with their daughter Jagger Snow Ross. Also in the room, Ross’s daughter Chudney Ross … On Friday, Ross’ daughter Rhonda Ross Kendrick was in for the show.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section, and Fridays in Neon. He also hosts “Kats! On The Radio” Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on KUNV 91.5-FM and appears Wednesdays at 11 a.m. with Dayna Roselli on KTNV Channel 13. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.