The charge is simple: Spiegelworld needs this show to blow up, and survive the fallout.
The Las Vegas Strip’s wildly successful production company and creator of “Absinthe” is using the wild west and atomic power to re-ignite a latent entertainment venue with “Atomic Saloon Show.” The adult comedy-variety production is at once an homage to this region’s atomic testing history, and Las Vegas’s wild-west underpinnings. The show opens Sept. 8, after a run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.
The “Saloon” sets up in the space formerly known as The Act on the second floor of Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian. The venue has been renamed Kraken Music Hall, and is under the radioactive stewardship of one Boozy Skunkton. The central character is the same sort of producer/host/spokesperson Spiegelworld has trotted out in with the Gazillionaire in “Absinthe,” and Harry M. Howie in the “Opium” universe.
A singing cowboy character has been cast, as Spiegelworld founder and “Improssario” Ross Mollison and British comedy director Cal McCrystal auditioned for that role, and others, this month in Las Vegas. Promotional videos for the show also feature a furry pink creature, loping and grooving in the desert, possibly the result of radiation exposure.
Mollison is a known Vegas historian who especially fancies the downtown core, such old-west-themed casinos Binion’s Gambling Hall and under-the-radar hangs as Atomic Liquors. “The Atomic Saloon” is a kind of fusion of those brands.
“I love, love downtown and I love researching the history of Las Vegas,” says Mollison, whose company has purchased a building downtown as a future entertainment venue. “I’ve had this idea running around for two, maybe three years. I can’t tell you exactly when it first became an idea, but like we’ve done with ‘Absinthe’ and ‘Opium,’ we want to create something wild and funny out of something that’s familiar.”
Expect a multiplicity of side acts with grown-up comedy (the show is restricted to 18-over). The company’s own description of “The Atomic Saloon” is a mix of the Wild West satire classic “Blazing Saddles” and TV shows “Westworld” and “America’s Got Talent.” Spiegelworld has effectively populated “AGT” with many acts that have reached the finals — including the skating act Billy and Emily England of “Absinthe,” and also comic magician Piff the Magic Dragon, who was in the original cast of Spiegelworld’s “Vegas Nocturne” at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
“What ‘AGT’ has done is take what we have in Spiegelworld to a national-TV audience,” Mollison says. “We’ve had a great deal of admiration for how ‘AGT’ can present act that can be in our show, or have been. They had Emily spinning by holding onto Billy’s beard, something we never could do over and over in “Absinthe” without torturing Billy, but worked one time on TV.”
Mollison says his team is developing “something that would give us a new young crop of talent come to the table, whether it’s out of Montreal, Moscow or Australia, that has not done a lot of shows in a super-super intimate venue, and this one is something more intimate.”
The venue seats about 250, configured cozily in the same way as the Rose. Rabbit. Lie. showroom at the Cosmopolitan has been designed to keep “Opium” audiences at close distance. You can smell the bananas from any seat in that room.
The venue itself has a nefarious history from 2012-2013, when nightlife honcho Simon Hammerstein brought his version of The Box in New York to the refined Strip resort. The Act certainly raised eyebrows by staging wild, raunchy acts for about 12 months before hotel officials went to court to evict the operators for violating the state’s obscenity laws. The Act finally closed in September 2013.
Mollison is now in partnership with what he calls “three incredible Strip resorts,” Caesars Palace, the Cosmopolitan and Venetian/Palazzo. He foresees no content concerns with his landlords.
“We will adhere to all the rules,” Mollison says. “I am going to be a good partner. We like making people excited about the content we create, and I don’t like someone sending me letters complaining about what happened in the show last night. We like people to be excited about what we’re doing, like they are at Caesars and the Cosmopolitan.”
Spiegelworld is in enjoying what is, even for this imaginative company, an uncommonly creative spell. The Absinthe Oak LED tree at Spiegeltent at Caesars Palace is going up and should be ready for full illumination on April 1, when “Absinthe” celebrates its eighth anniversary. “Opium” marks its first year on March 12. The stage show “We Are Here” remains in development, though “Atomic Saloon” has jumped into the schedule ahead of that retro-disco show’s opening.
Expect “We Are Here” to open in 2020, possibly by the summer, in a new venue at Caesars. Another announced title, “Heroes,” is showcasing in New York in a little more than a year. That production, which is centered on characters from the service industry, is likely to tour and play festivals rather than perform in Vegas.
“We have worked on so many projects, some that have been reported and wound up playing in Las Vegas or somewhere else,” Mollison says, “like ‘Absinthe’ and ‘Opium,’ and ‘Vegas Nocturne.’ But there have been many that never got off the ground that haven’t been reported. We’re just excited to be putting this together, and creating the next world that we want to live in.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and Palazzo.
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.