Producer, director and choreographer Jeff Kutash was back on the former Desert Inn site last week, experiencing a full-circle moment.
He was watching a preview of “Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers,” which opens Saturday in the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas.
Kutash is familiar with the concept. Starting in 1991, the Desert Inn showroom was home to “Jeff Kutash’s Showstopper.”
Kutash’s reaction to the title of Wynn’s new show?
“I was a little surprised. It was a very visible show. It played at the Desert Inn for a year,” he said by telephone on Tuesday.
“I love Steve,” said Kutash. “He gave me my first big break at the Golden Nugget with “Dancing Machine” in the (late) 1970s. I opened the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City with “Brand New Day.” He played that showroom for a year until one of Wynn’s pals, a guy named Frank Sinatra, arrived.
Kutash added, “Steve is a very clever guy, a daring guy who wants to do it bigger and better than anyone else.”
It is Kutash’s opinion that Wynn didn’t go far enough with “Showstoppers.”
“If I had to give it a critique, I’d like to see more showstopper production numbers that make an impact. What he did, he did great, but I’d like to see more,” Kutash said.
“It’s the same format,” Kutash said. “I probably had a larger version of the show because of scenic elements. He did a lot of numbers from the same show. I did one.”
Other differences: Kutash said he “sandwiched all kinds of video. It felt like you were on Broadway, a very immersive experience.”
In Wynn’s effort, Kutash said, the orchestra is on the stage and becomes the centerpiece of the show.
“I also did some of the movie showstoppers, from ‘Rambo’ and James Bond. I had a giant Godzilla that came up through the stage and a girl came out on a giant King Kong hand. I had an ice rink and a lot of pyrotechnics. I think Steve stayed pretty pure to the number.
“I took what I thought was the essence of the production sequence and added to it.
“When I did ‘Little Shops of Horrors,’ I did three monster plants. The last one was so big it basically ate the audience. I mean, if you’re going to call something ‘showstoppers,’ you better stop the show.”
It came to end at the Desert Inn when Kirk Kerkorian “bought the hotel back from himself and came in with a whole new entertainment policy
“He brought in one of the big agents from Hollywood. He brought in Liza (Minnelli) and Paul Anka and changed the policy of the showroom from production shows to old-school headliners.
“I believe we were the last production in there,” Kutash said.
He moved the show to South Africa, where it enjoyed a successful run.
As a choreographer, Kutash worked with John Travolta on “Saturday Night Fever,” as well as Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Tom Jones and others.
ZOMBIE SUCCESS STORY
Producer David Saxe says its scary how successful “Zombie Burlesque” has been.
Nobody saw that coming, right?
Actually someone did. “This thing just might be crazy enough to work,” R-J critic Mike Weatherford wrote a year ago.
Saxe said the V Theater show (Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood) has been “extremely well received and quickly became a cult classic.”
Some 400 performances later, Saxe said the show “probably be making its way to Broadway.”
If you’re expecting topless zombies, that’s not going to happen. The comedy musical is set in a zombie-only Las Vegas club that opens its doors to new blood during the 1950’s atomic testing.
Francesca Eastwood, in ringside seats at the Amir Khan-Devon Alexander fight at MGM Grand Garden arena with show producer Jeff Beacher, Jesse Metcalfe of “Desperate Housewives” and talent manager Larry Rudolph. Later the party moved to Beacher’s Madhouse (MGM Grand) and the Hard Rock Hotel. Eastwood married Beacher’s friend, Jordan Feldstein, in Las Vegas last year for a week. Feldstein, who manages Maroon Five, is actor Jonah Hill’s brother. Eastwood had a role in “Jersey Boys,” which was directed by her father. … At Lavo’s Champagne Brunch (Palazzo) on Sunday: Giancarlo Stanton, celebrating the monster contract he signed with the Miami Marlins. He was with Matt Kemp, who was traded last week by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the San Diego Padres … Jerry Lewis, dining at Old Homestead (Caesars Palace) on Saturday before attending Matt Goss’ show at Caesars. After the show, Lewis described the British crooner as “charismatic, romantic and a great, great entertainer (but he’s not Jewish).”
THE PUNCH LINE
“Lindsay Lohan says she wants to move to London permanently. It’s a perfect fit because she already drives on the wrong side of the road.” — Seth Meyers
Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or email him at email@example.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. Follow Norm on Twitter @Norm_Clarke.