The final shows running on the Las Vegas Strip finally dropped the curtain Tuesday night.
The last to bow to the coronavirus pandemic were those operated by David Saxe Productions at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, among them the hits “Vegas! The Show,” “V — The Ultimate Variety Show,” “Zombie Burlesque” and Nathan Burton’s magic production.
Also tabled in Saxe’s company: the Strip’s only full Elvis tribute show, “All Shook Up,” “BeatleShow,” a tribute to the Beatles; “Gregory Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater,” Gerry McCambridge’s “The Mentalist,” Las Vegas Live Comedy Club; and the Stripper 101 pole-dancing class. Strip veteran Marc Savard had taken his comedy-hypnosis show down over the weekend, and the “Hitsville” Motown revue was also halted last week.
That Saxe was the final producer to close his shows during the pandemic is no surprise to anyone who follows Las Vegas entertainment. Saxe remains a producer from a bygone era, where the show must go on even in the face of an international health scare. He’s also a native Las Vegan whose father, Dick, was a prominent sax player and bandleader. His mother, Bonnie, danced in “Folies Bergere” at Tropicana even while pregnant with David.
“I have been feeling the pressure to close, and I’ve been feeling the pressure to keep going,” Saxe said Tuesday afternoon before informing his performers they would need to close. “It’s not like me to take a perfectly fine show with great performers and is making money off the stage. It’s in direct conflict of who I am.”
Saxe had even cut seating capacity — and profits — to provide spacing to audiences and routinely sanitized his five theaters (four in the V Theater complex and also Saxe Theater). All those efforts were finally curtailed Tuesday night when Gov. Steve Sisolak called a halt to all activities at Miracle Mile, and its theaters, for 30 days.
“It’s tough when customers want to see the show, and your casts want to do the show,” Saxe said. “It’s so difficult. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.”
Barry Manilow has announced his dates this month and April at Westgate’s International Theater are off the schedule. He’s reset for May 28-30, and June 4-6, along with shows already scheduled June 18-20 and June 25-27. Additional new dates are July 2-4, continuing on with added shows Oct. 22-24, and Dec. 3-5. Manilow has also moved his May and June tour dates in the U.K. to late August and September.
The suddenly displaced employees of Spiegelworld Productions have been notified they are on an unpaid furlough, via email on Tuesday afternoon. Those affected anticipated two weeks’ pay (or through April 9). They were also told they would receive benefits through June 30.
Spiegelworld has in its fold about 250 full- and part-time employees across three shows, along with the company’s corporate staff. Spiegelworld has produced a revenue-generating juggernaut with “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace. But the productions “Opium” and “The Atomic Saloon Show” at The Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes were a far smaller scale. Combined, they about equal the “Absinthe” operating budget, but run with far smaller profit potential.
Also, the company spent impressively on such signature off-stage effects as its Absinthe Electric Tree at Caesars Palace, the custom-painted “Opium” Rolls-Royce and The Hallucinator RV. That stuff was terrific fun, but it was not cheap, even for The Gazillionaire. The tree reportedly cost upwards of $1.5 million.
Compounding the stress for those now unemployed, many of Spiegelworld’s artists are only permitted to live and work in the U.S. on P-1 visas, which allow international entertainers to live in the states if they work for a specific company.
Now that they don’t work specifically for Spiegelworld, and with no work (and now no pay) in Las Vegas, expect an exodus of international performers who — not so long ago — made Spiegelworld a force on the Strip.
Cutting it close
The feverish pace of Tuesday’s decision-making during the coronavirus outbreak was evident at South Point:
At 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, hotel reps had confirmed there were no plans to pull any shows from South Point Showroom or Grandview Lounge.
At 1:20 p.m. Dennis Bono had posted an update on the guests of his weekly “Dennis Bono Show,” set for 2 p.m. Thursday in the showroom.
By 1:30 p.m., South Point General Manager Ryan Growney checked in to update that all the venues would go dark.
By 4 p.m., it became apparent Gov. Sisolak would be be making his call on closing all hotel business for 30 days.
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 email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.