The musical numbers in “A Mob Story” were great. But it was the numbers that mattered — the financial reports — that eventually undercut the Mafia-themed production.
Producer Jeff Kutash confirmed Friday the show would not be back at the refurbished Plaza Showroom. The production, fighting against a tide of red ink, went dark in late-December with the hopes it could return to the stage by the spring. As recently as mid-January, co-producer and show host Michael Franzese said he was targeting an April return to the Plaza stage.
“It was always the business plan to have a limited run off-Strip, and after that, if the show were well-received, to move the show to a larger venue,” said Kutash, a veteran Las Vegas producer who turned “Splash” into a monster hit at the Riviera for 22 years ending in 2006. “Regardless of the reviews, it was not economically viable to be at the Plaza Showroom and it needs to be relocated.”
The Plaza Showroom underwent an extensive, expensive overhaul to the show’s specific production and design needs. Video panels were installed, a new set and set pieces (including a catwalk over the main stage) and a new lighting system moved in. As Kutash said, even selling out four shows per week in the 400-seat theater would not have pushed the show to profitability.
“The production and running costs of the show at the Plaza were much higher than usual because, among other things, the production had to bear the cost of major lighting, sound, stage and other technical systems that theatre venues usually provide,” Kutash said. “This factor, among others, is the driving force behind bringing the show to a venue that is fully equipped and that can accommodate a much larger audience so that this highly-popular show can become profitable and entertain a broader audience.”
Prior to signing with the Plaza, the show was looming around Jubilee Theater at Bally’s, among other Strip venues. A conversation with Caesars Entertainment officials seems likely, if it hasn’t already started.
The show’s struggles were evident as it moved back its starting date from July 11, eventually launching in September. The expenditures were evident in the size and scale of its cast — 22 performers onstage, led by Franzese telling his life story as a “Capo” in the Colombo crime family. Stage performers Marcel Forestieri, Joey Spinella and Sina Foley also conveyed the story through song and narration.
The lead choreographer, Brian Friedman, worked with such superstars as Britney Spears, Cher, Beyonce and Mariah Carey. The choreography team was further propelled by industry greats Will “Willdabeast” Adams, Janelle Ginestra, Tracy Phillips and Shannon Mather. Emmy Award-winner Andy Walmsley was enlisted to design the set. Highly regarded lighting designer David Schulman brought it all to life.
All of this firepower came at a heavy price. In January, Franzese said his production was facing outstanding debt, with the show running nearly $1 million over budget, and the show is still trying to pay all of its debts in full.
Franzese, a reformed crime boss, has built a lucrative career outside this first attempt at musical theater. He’s busy on the road as an inspirational speaker, and is the focus of the upcoming A&E reality series “Mob Father.”
Franzese has banked the first episode, which is in post-production, with an air date for this year to be announced.
The Plaza stands to gain in the long term as “A Mob Story” moves out. The downtown hotel-casino has been handed an expertly renovated showroom. Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel says he has “something very exciting” in the works for that venue. “I’m sad to see ‘A Mob Story’ leave,” he said in a phone chat Friday. “I loved it. But there are exciting times ahead for the Plaza.”
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.