Producers who have opened shows in big theaters during COVID are scarce, internationally and especially in Las Vegas. But Hanoch Rosènn, a prime-time mime and entertainment visionary, is such a figure. His “Extravaganza” is back on the schedule at Bally’s, set to reopen Nov. 23.
“Extravaganza — The Las Vegas Spectacular” premiered at Jubilee Theatre on March 14. It also closed on March 14, falling victim to the shutdown of live entertainment everywhere.
But the “Extravaganza” variety show is not one and done. Rosènn has experience in staging a production in the teeth of a pandemic. His “Wow” show has opened and closed repeatedly at Isrotel Royal’s Garden Theater in Eilat, Israel. The show returned June 22, and was taken down less than a month later when that country faced a new COVID outbreak.
The production came and went a few more times, surfing along with the pandemic spikes.
“Many shows opened, and cases went up, and closed again,” Rosènn said in a phone chat Tuesday morning. “We would run for two weeks, and they would decided to close the show. I hope we can come back slowly in Las Vegas, carefully, and show we can be safe.”
“Extravaganza,” an ode to traditional Vegas spectacles, will perform to 250 socially-distanced fans, the first row pushed 25 feet from the stage. The Nov. 23 reopening date is just ahead of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s two-week deadline for COVID numbers to trend downward.
The governor has stated more strict measures will be enacted if the state’s cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID continue to rise. That would mean “Extravaganza” could again be pulled off the stage just after opening.
But the show will cross that moat when it gets there.
“Extravaganza” is armed with many of its own cast members from the original production. Rosènn also pulled the star couple from the sidelined “Wow” show at the Rio, which is dark until the end of the year. Crossbow artist Silvia Silvia and her husband, Victor Ponce, join the revamped “Extravaganza.”
Silvia Silvia’s archery act, in which she spears seven bull’s eyes and pierces an apple atop her head, closes “Wow.” Ponce plays the rotund, plate-spinning chef and also the pirate in the show’s watery production number.
“We are lucky to have them as guest stars,” Rosènn said. “We will have quite a show.”
“Extravaganza” is missing the emcee who opened the show, ventriloquist Kevin Huesca, a celebrity performer in Italy who planned to work with an Elvis puppet on the Strip. He and his wife, gymnastics champion Olesia Shulga, also perform an aerial act together.
But Huesca’s family was separated by circumstance in COVID, with his wife and two of the couple’s children making the trip to Vegas. Their 7-year-old son was to rejoin the family after finishing his school year. Instead, with the show in a lingering lock down, the parents and two kids returned to Italy to be with their son. Italy was then issued a travel ban restricting all nonessential travel in and out of the country (ventriloquial arts on the Las Vegas Strip is not deemed essential).
The entire family is now waiting for travel restrictions to relax so they can finally return to “Extravaganza.” If/when they are allowed to return, the couple’s next show would be just their second performance in Las Vegas in at least nine months.
“It’s a real story, a tough story, because they tried everything to unite the family,” Rosènn said. “To be honest, some of the cast have left, but not so many. Most of the talent has been staying, ready for the show to be back and also curious to see if ‘Wow’ will be able to be onstage again.”
The show’s single run in March was crucial in its efforts to return. One show means that the show was completed just in time before COVID took hold.
“We are fortunate that we didn’t stop in the middle of tech rehearsal,” Rosènn said. “We had the stage and lighting ready. We filmed it, and we have it on video.”
Trained as a mime and relentlessly optimistic, Rosènn is eager to put on a Vegas extravaganza.
“Entertainment keeps the blood going. We need the shows and we need the art,” the producer said. “This is the juice of life. It’s giving work to people, it’s giving hope to the audience. They need to laugh and clap and be thrilled.
“This is Vegas, and we have to have it.”
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.
“Extravaganza — The Law Vegas Spectacular
Where: Jubilee Theatre inside Bally’s.
When: Opening Nov. 23, 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (dark Wednesdays except for Nov. 25, Dec. 23, 30 and Jan. 6).
Tickets: $49.99 to $109.99 (not including fees) at Extravaganza-Vegas.com, the Bally’s box office, Ticketmaster, BallysLasVegas.com or 702-777-7776.