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In the face of tragedy, Las Vegas Strip falls silent

Updated October 3, 2017 - 12:55 am

The show must go on, as they say. But not tonight.

Many venues went dark Monday night to mourn and pay tribute to victims of Sunday’s Route 91 Harvest festival shooting at the Village.

All shows at MGM Resorts’ Strip hotels were canceled, including five of the seven Cirque du Soleil productions running Monday night (“O” at Bellagio and Criss Angel’s “Mindfreak Live” are already dark on Mondays). Performances at all eight Caesars Entertainment resorts were also called off as the city grappled with the grim reality that it was now home to the nation’s deadliest massacre in modern times. Shows shuttered at Caesars properties included Frank Marino’s “Divas,” Penn & Teller at the Rio; Tenors of Rock at Harrah’s; magicians Murray Sawchuck and Xavier Mortimer, impressionist Gordie Brown and the adult revue “Crazy Girls” at Sin City Theater at Planet Hollywood; “Paranormal,” starring Frederic Da Silva, Bronx Wanderers and Wayne Newton at Windows Showroom at Bally’s; “X Country” and “Menopause the Musical” at Harrah’s Cabaret; and “Piff the Magic Dragon” and “X Burlesque” at Bugsy’s Cabaret at Flamingo Las Vegas. All are expected to return as scheduled on Tuesday.

David Saxe, who runs a dozen shows out of his V Theater and Saxe Theater fortress at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, performed as planned. “People who bought tickets deserve to be entertained, and that is what we do,” he said Monday. “Sometimes, when people don’t know what to do, they want to get away from it for a couple of hours.”

Saxe said anyone with a ticket to a canceled show could attend any of his productions for free. “This is not about the money,” he said. “It’s just if you want to see a show, we’ll have a show.”

Frank Marino, a Strip headliner for 32 years, put it succinctly: “I’ve seen a lot of tragedies, but this is the biggest one I’ve seen in Las Vegas, ever.” SPI Entertainment producer Adam Steck, a nearly 20-year resident whose company operates seven shows on the Strip (including Marino’s), said, “It’s the worst thing to ever happen in Las Vegas, the most horrific thing you could possibly think.”

The only other time Strip productions were suspended over the past two decades was the week of 9/11. Then, as now, the city fell similarly quiet as the community galvanized to support recovery efforts.

Even the biggest names turned the spotlight on rescuers and residents who banded together before, during and after the horrific event.

“When you see people waiting for five hours to donate blood, it’s a powerful thing,” MGM Grand headliner David Copperfield said. “To me, those people, and the first responders, are the heroes in this.”

As the gunman fired seemingly endless rounds of ammunition, Copperfield was performing to a packed house in his eponymous showroom just tnorth of the Village. He was about 15 minutes into the show when he heard the violent, concussive noise coming from outside the theater.

“I thought it was helicopters, that rapid-fire sound, like one of those touring helicopters over the Strip,” he said. “Then I went backstage between acts and I was told there was an active shooter outside.”

As Copperfield moved smoothly through the rest of his show, MGM Grand security locked the doors to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the theater.

“I did as calm a show as I could,” Copperfield said. “When the show finished, the curtain closed behind me and I said, ‘We are in lockdown. There has been a shooting, and bad things are happening out there.’”

Audience members immediately turned to their mobile phones for details. Copperfield returned to his dressing room as the house crew cued up a decade-old Copperfield documentary as a visual distraction onstage. During the nearly two-hour delay, audience members were allowed to use the backstage restroom and move around the room before eventually being allowed to exit through the casino.

“The horror was happening, but everyone was so composed,” the renowned magician said. “Often, when horror is happening, people become great. That’s what happened last night.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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