Confusion, concern and cancellations are shadowing the Las Vegas entertainment scene during the health scare caused by coronavirus.
Indicators abound relating to performers’ efforts to cope with a rapidly advancing crisis. While we have yet to appreciate the full breadth of challenges facing Vegas entertainers, a sample of the latest developments:
— Cirque du Soleil is canceling or postponing seven of its international productions. As of this writing, there has been no information that Cirque’s resident shows on the Las Vegas Strip have been halted.
Even so, the company is taking down the touring ice-skating production “Axel,” from its dates March 24-28 in San Jose, California; that show is still scheduled to perform at T-Mobile Arena from April 3-5. “X — the Land of Fantasy” in Hangzhou, China, has been taken down for a scheduled April 24 relaunch.
Other Cirque shows listed as cancelled or postponed: “Amalun” in Hong Kong; “Totem” in Rome and Milan, Italy; “Kooza” in Lyon, France; “Cortero” on its European tour of such cities as Montpellier, France; Vienna, Austria; Antwerp, Belgium; and Gothenburg, Sweden; and the Blue Man Group’s tour of Le Caire, Egypt; and Seoul, South Korea.
Cirque staffers in Las Vegas have been emailed that the company “is facing an increased financial pressure on our operations due to this situation, and we must focus on protecting our employees and our business.” The Cirque family has also been reminded of “the rapid pace the COVID-19 situation is evolving,” and to be prepared for updates.
— Entertainers’ personal contact with fans is, at the very least, being curtailed as the crisis unfolds.
Superstar magician David Copperfield is among headliners to reconsider meet-and-greets with guests at his shows at MGM Grand. Copperfield met the fans Tuesday and is now taking a night-to-night approach on these opportunities. Asked if he would meet the fans after Wednesday’s shows, Copperfield said, “I don’t think so.”
There has been no announcement regarding meet and greets, or about general show scheduling, among the city’s two primary residency producers: Live Nation and AEG Presents. However, Bruno Mars reportedly held off contact with fans during his shows over the weekend at Park Theater.
The approach to these interactions vary. Wayne Newton said Wednesday he would continue to meet fans after his shows at Cleopatra’s Barge at Caesars Palace. Shania Twain, set to return to Zappos Theater this weekend, doesn’t have a meet-and-greet. But Aerosmith, returning to the Strip in May, welcomes hundreds of fans before shows at Park Theater. No word on if that practice will continue, or even if the band’s “Deuces Are Wild” shows themselves will be affected.
Las Vegas Strip productions in Adam Steck’s SPI Entertainment company, including Human Nature at The Venetian’s Sands Showroom; and magician Hans Klok and Australian Bee Gees at Excalibur have stopped meeting fans before and after their shows. Asked if he’s ever seen anything like the coronavirus scare, Steck said, “Never in the 20 years I’ve been here.”
— MGM Resorts International announced internally Wednesday the company has cut back its lounge entertainment schedule. The lineup has been reduced at Mandalay Bay’s Rhythm & Riffs lounge to weekends (entertainment is still scheduled on March 19, 20, 21, 27 and 28). The hotel’s Hazel lounge entertainment schedule is halted for the rest of the month. The Celtis Feis St. Patrick’s Day events at New York-New York’s Nine Fine Irishmen and Brooklyn Bridge are still scheduled but moving to a 4 p.m. start Friday and Tuesday.
At Aria, the shows at Lobby bar have been canceled this month and the Lift lounge schedule is trimmed. Lift is down to this Friday and Saturday and also March 27-28, all related to sagging business because of the health scare.
Open-lounge shows at Excalibur and Luxor are unchanged, with programming at The Park and Brooklyn Bridge being reviewed — but on Wednesday, solo performers were pulled from those stages.
— Terry Bradshaw’s one-man residency show at Luxor has been pushed back to April 19. He was expected to take the stage Monday.
— The vintage-Vegas production “The Rat Pack is Back” at The Copa Room at Tuscany Suites saw its numbers drop from an oversold 150-plus on Saturday, to a paid audience of 33 by Tuesday night.
— Vegas acts who are characteristically busy with private and corporate gigs have seen their income drop over the past two weeks.
A chief example: Nina Di Gregorio’s popular Bella Electric Strings and Femmes of Rock violin bands have seen their bookings drop because of coronavirus concerns; she estimates she’s lost about $20,000 in corporate business since March 1. Typical of the current trend is Di Gregorio’s violinists were booked with Beatles tribute band The Fab and members of the Lon Bronson Band for a private show scheduled for April 9 at Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip. That show was spiked Wednesday.
Matt Gucu of New Moon Entertainment, a Las Vegas special-event production company that books talent for corporate shows, referred to the climate as “The event apocalypse.”
Gucu, a 25-year performer (formerly with the ’80s tribute band Loveshack) and booking exec in Las Vegas, added, “The past two weeks have been crazy and it’s just getting crazier. I’ve seen nothing like this type of pre-emptive activity in Las Vegas.”
The Vegas cover band All Request Live has seen its jammed March corporate schedule dissipate to nearly no work. ”It’s gone from the best month we’ve ever had on the books to virtually zero in two weeks flat,” Producer John Menniti said. “The only thing keeping us above water now are the local casino gigs.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.