'American Idol' visiting 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign


And the beat goes on.

As the feature "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" heads back to Southern California following last week's Vegas visit (more about "Burt" in a bit), Fox's top-rated "American Idol" finds its way back to the Strip.

Specifically, to the iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign, one of the locations planned for the show's Glitter City return on the eve of Wednesday's 11th-season premiere.

"American Idol" picks up where the show's late December visit left off; the footage is scheduled to air during the Feb. 22 "Performance Challenge," when those who survive the "Hollywood Rounds" face judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler one last time before semifinalists are announced.

That's 'Incredible': As in "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," the full title of the dueling-magicians comedy that brought stars Steve Carell and Jim Carrey to Las Vegas for a four-day shoot last week alongside co-stars Steve Buscemi, James Gandolfini and Olivia Wilde.

But you can add another glittering name to the movie's on-camera attractions: Las Vegas itself.

A Vegas location visit emerged as "an absolute must" for the production, according to director Don Scardino ("30 Rock"), shooting in Las Vegas for the first time since he helmed an episode of Tracey Ullman's "Tracey Takes On ... " about 15 years ago.

"We just felt that, to give the movie authenticity, it had to be on the Strip," Scardino comments.

And not only on the Strip, Scardino adds. "Burt Wonderstone's" title character (Carell), a reigning Strip headliner heading for a big fall, might be "a creature of the Strip," but Jim Carrey -- as street-magician rival Steve Gray -- seems more at home "in and around Fremont Street," Scardino says. (Which explains why the movie was scheduled to spend part of its final day on location downtown near Binion's.)

The contrast between "two different worlds" of Vegas "helps define our talent," Scardino notes, as the "ever-changing Strip" provides contrast with "the frozen-in-time aspect of Fremont Street."

As for the characters' human inspirations, Carell's Wonderstone "looks like Siegfried & Roy" (the "circa '80s" versions, anyway), while "if David Blaine and Criss Angel had a child, it would be (Carrey's) Steve Gray," the director says, adding that Carrey's "such an idiosyncratic performer, he's not quite either of those guys."

Yet "Burt Wonderstone" does have a real-life star magician in the cast: David Copperfield, who plays himself -- and designed a live stage illusion featured in the movie.

"He feels it's very legitimate and very funny," Scardino says of Copperfield, "and he hopes it will make people love magic all the more."

TALKIN' 'SMACKDOWN': "American Idol" is hardly the only TV competition returning to Las Vegas this week. Syfy's "WWE Smackdown" is back Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center for a "Sin City Smackdown," complete with a roulette wheel that will determine whether the WWE fighters battle in a steel cage -- or a tornado match.

The main event will feature "World's Largest Athlete" The Big Show, "World's Strongest Man" Mark Henry and world heavyweight champ Daniel Bryan in a cage-match championship battle; Randy Orton, Sheamus , Christian and the WWE Divas also are scheduled to appear.

INTO THE 'MYSTIC': Las Vegas has provided the backdrop for myriad reality shows, but there's room for more.

At least that's what the folks behind "Mystic Adventures" hope. They're shooting a pilot this week featuring a quartet of spiritualists interacting with Strip pedestrians, according to producer -- and dream interpreter -- Recie Saunders.

"We thought Las Vegas would be an interesting backdrop," he says. "We love the energy."

Carol Cling's Shooting Stars column appears Mondays. Contact her at (702) 383-0272 or ccling@reviewjournal.com.

 

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