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‘Absinthe’ will continue to play as Sisolak tightens COVID limits

Updated November 23, 2020 - 10:34 am

Live entertainment has hit another speed bump in the Entertainment Capital of the World. But not all shows are committed to closing through the latest directives.

Gov. Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 “statewide pause” over the three weeks beginning 12:01 Tuesday is the latest stall for the city’s already suffering entertainment community. The directive cuts total capacity of public gatherings from 250 to 50 people, or 25 percent of a venue’s capacity, whatever is less.

The latest restrictions mean that a host of Strip productions that had reopened since October will be dark for that three-week period, which would end Dec. 15. But one of those shows, “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace, is planning to keep running.

“Absinthe will continue to play,” show producer Ross Mollison said Sunday night. “The great news is we’re sold out until the end of the year.”

The nine-year hit show at Caesars Palace has consistently sold to its 153-seat, COVID-reopening capacity. Under normal circumstances that now seem from a bygone era, “Absinthe” sold to a 660-seat capacity, 14 shows per week. Now it’s 500 per week, for 10 shows.

Sisolak had earlier explained the state’s latest COVID directives.

“Recently, we took great steps to increase gathering size to 250 people or 50 percent, whichever was less,” Sisolak said. “Unfortunately, due to the surge we are experiencing, we must decrease these limits during the pause. Public gatherings will be limited to no more than 50 individuals, or 25-percent of fire-code capacity, whichever is less, under strict social-distancing requirements.”

Sisolak said no large-gathering plans, such as live performances, will be approved during the three-week pause. As he said, “If larger events have been approved to take place in the next three-week period, they must be canceled.”

Sisolak lumped theater and casino showroom live-entertainment gatherings with places of worship, indoor movie theaters, weddings, funerals, celebrations of life, milestone celebrations “and any other event where members of the public would be gathered together at the same time in the same place for the same purpose.”

Since October, ticketed shows had been allowed to play to socially distanced crowds of up to 250. The audiences have been spaced apart, with a 25-foot “entertainment moat” separating performers from the crowd. It is unlikely most of the Strip productions that have reopened would be able to turn a profit, or attempt to operate, under a 50-person capacity.

Live-entertainment performances set to close Tuesday include MGM Resorts International’s David Copperfield, Jabbawockeez and Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at MGM Grand; Carrot Top and “Fantasy” at Luxor Theater; and Australian Bee Gees and Thunder From Down Under at Thunderland Showroom at Excalibur.

Terry Fator, who headlined for 10 years at Mirage, will be forced to reschedule his reopening Thanksgiving Day at New York-New York, in the old Zumanity Theater. Cirque du Soleil announced last week “Zumanity” would close permanently.

MGM Resorts International spokeswoman Jenn Michaels said Sunday the company was working immediately to adjust operations to comply with the governor’s directives. She said the MGM Resorts shows that had returned beginning Nov. 6 would all be closed for three weeks.

“This will clearly have a major impact on entertainment and we are working with our partners to determine the path forward,” Michaels said. “We will share that information as quickly as possible to minimize guest inconvenience. “She added, the company place health and safety as its top priority, saying, “While we recognize these are challenging times, we are encouraged by positive news of vaccines on the horizon and believe deeply that our resilient community will rebound.”

SPI Entertainment CEO Adam Steck, who produces “Australian Bee Gees” and Thunder From Down Under, said, “It’s disappointing, we did everything we could do to make it safe for the customers, the cast and crew stepped up for a safe environment. It’s disappointing for everybody.” Steck said that he could conceivably keep his shows open “if it makes sense for the casino.”

“We wouldn’t make a dime,” he added, “but at least we’d keep the ball rolling.”

“Fantasy” producer Anita Mann was firm in addressing her show’s short-term future.

“We’re going to close tomorrow night, hopefully for just three weeks,” Mann said. “We’re hoping we can go back to where we are now, with the 250 capacity. The audiences have enjoying the show, we’re selling out, and the cast has been thrilled to be back to work. Hoping we can get it turned around.” Mann’s show and Carrot Top’s production have played vastly spaced-out crowds of 250 at Luxor Theater.

Garrett, who had headlined his show in the temporary Studio A & B ballrooms at the entrance of MGM Grand, said he’s going dark. “Unfortunately, 50 people can’t work. You can only bend comedy so much until it’s not a great experience live,” he said. “Plus, I want everyone safe. The numbers are horrible.”

Also among major Strip resorts, Caesars Entertainment had returned “Absinthe,” Piff The Magic Dragon at Flamingo Showroom; Tape Face at Harrah’s Showroom; “X Country” at Harrah’s Cabaret; and (starting Monday) “Extravaganza” at Bally’s.

The “Extravaganza” show has proven star-crossed in its Vegas experience. The show opened, and closed, March 14, just before the state’s original shutdown. It is now facing yet another stall as it attempts to reopen at Jubilee Theater.

Piff and “X Country” are both Stabile Production resident shows. Matt and Angela Stabile said on Sunday night they had not ruled out running the productions for 50-capacity crowds for three weeks, pending conversations with Caesars Entertainment officials.

“It’s not great news, but we’ve already been talking with Caesars to keep Piff and ‘X Country’ open,” Angela Stabile said. “If we need to add more shows, we can add them.”

Tropicana had brought back its Laugh Factory comedy lineup with headliner Andrew Dice Clay scheduled Thanksgiving weekend. Basil has also been prepping for Rich Little and Murray Sawchuck to return. Club operator Harry Basil said Sunday he still plans to keep the room running at 50-capacity.

“I just talked to Dice, and he still wants to keep the dates. He just want to make sure its safe,” said Basil, who had already set the room for 80 people, and is dropping to 50. “We just want to be safe. We can still make it work.”

Veteran producer David Saxe has a series of productions, including cornerstone show “V — The Ultimate Variety Show” still on the books beginning Dec. 17, just outside the three-week window. His smallest theater, known as V3, could still work to a 50-person crowd.

“I’m trying not to make a knee-jerk reaction, but I need to weigh it all,” Saxe said. “I don’t know if we can make it work with 50 people. I need to gauge the shows’ interest in reopening, too. It’s not looking good.”

The Strat brought back the popular “MJ Live” Michael Jackson tribute show, and also its L.A. Comedy Club. Just east of the Strip, Tuscany was back with “The Rat Pack is Back” in an upstairs ballroom.

There is no formal word yet on whether those shows, both which have done strong box-office business, will attempt to run through the pause. “Rat Pack” producer Dick Feeney says his show will run at leaat through the week. As “Rat Pack” band leader Lon Bronson said, “This is like Apollo 13. We’re trying to do the best with what we have.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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