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Las Vegas producer reopens theater show, in Israel

Updated June 25, 2020 - 7:48 am

Hanoch Rosenn spent his youth as a prime-time mime. He’s once more feeling his way around a theater.

The hotshot Las Vegas producer is figuring out live entertainment, all the way from Israel. Rosenn is known in this city as the creative mind behind the circus-styled “Wow” at the Rio and “Extravaganza” at Bally’s, the latter show having performed just once before the COVID-19 shutdown.

On Monday, Rosenn returned his original production, “Wow the Future,” to Isrotel Royal’s Garden Theater in Eilat, Israel. The show played to a socially distant audience of 250 in a 600-capacity theater. Thus, “Wow” is something of a model for how similarly scaled shows can return to the stage in Las Vegas.

“We are treating this as a message to our colleagues and friends around the world, who ask me, ‘How is it going? When is it going to restart?’ ” Rosenn said in a midnight phone chat late Tuesday. “The response was amazing. We feel the audience was hungry for entertainment.”

Rosenn’s variety show is among the very first theater productions in the world to return to the stage. Franco Dragone’s “The House of Dancing Water” reopened briefly to City of Dreams in Macao but shut down temporarily until January. The show struggled to sell tickets as Macao’s tourism industry is still undercut by international travel restrictions.

Also, Cirque du Soleil’s “X: The Land of Fantasy,” a resident show in Hangzhou, the capital city of East China’s Zhejiang province, returned June 3. Masks are mandatory, and the theater is cut to 50 percent of its 1,400 capacity.

For “Wow,” Rosenn has also adapted such protocols as reduced seating capacity and social distancing, temperature checks, and masks for all ticketed guests.

After his premiere, the producer expressed his unfailing optimism. It is such self-belief that has carried the underdog show “Wow” at the Rio to 1,000 performances.

“When you have less than a full house, you wonder if they will be into the show, but we had a crowd that was shouting, laughing, cheering,” Rosenn said. “You could hear them, through the masks. They were not afraid. They were missing the live-show experience.”

Rosenn describes “capsules” of fans seated together. It’s a word to know for Las Vegas operators. A capsule is a group of two to 10 guests who are allowed to sit in the same row, or area. Capsules are separated by other capsules by a single seat.

“If you come in with a group, or book your tickets in a group, you can sit together,” Rosenn said. “That is how it is in the restaurants and through the hotel.”

Rosenn said the audience was willfully masked throughout the show. A few faces in the photos of the performance show otherwise, and keeping guests’ faces covered is a prime challenge in a theater — or anywhere else in public, for that matter.

“What I observed is people were inside the masks,” Rosenn said. “We will continue to remind them of how important this is.

“Wow’s” cast and crew of 75 performers had been quarantined from March through the show’s rehearsals this month. Nobody has tested positive for COVID-19. If anyone does, Rosenn says, the show goes into a two-week dark period for another quarantine.

“We are very aware, very careful about this,” Rosenn said. “We are interested in safety first. We are performing with that in mind, always.”

Audience participation is in all “Wow” shows. In Eilat, a performer selects an audience member to perform a mock boxing act. Now that character pulls a member of the production team to the stage — a build-in plant that is likely to stay in the show.

Also, the audience is released, row by row, at the end of the night.

“We have a voice recording the end of the show, ‘Row 4, Row 5, Row 6 and so on,” Rosenn said. “We are trying to keep people from being cramped together when they leave.”

Rosenn was relaying his narrative of the show, and photos, to Caesars Entertainment exec Damian Costa. The two were at Bally’s, on the preview night of “Extravaganza,” when learning the city would be shutting down because of the pandemic.

“We decided to run that night, and afterward we learned of the news,” Rosenn said. “We have had one great show in Las Vegas. At least we have that. But we will be back. We can see now how to do it.”

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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