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The Sphere makes us dizzy, and that’s all right

Updated June 19, 2021 - 7:29 pm

We had our first gander at the MSG Sphere at The Venetian on Thursday morning, a 360-degree tour in 110-degree heat. The hype is merited, so far, with this venue.

The Sphere is, in fact, dizzying.

Having taken construction tours of the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, the Smith Center, the upgraded Joint, T-Mobile Arena and Park Theater (among others) over the years, I can say the venue stands alone in its grand scope and unique design.

Someone out on social media has suggested calling it the Madison Sphere Garden, a fitting if unofficial title. The layout actually feels as you were to inflate a traditional performing-arts center (Reynolds Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center) as if it were a balloon. The giant hall seems to expand, Jiffy Pop-style, as you imagine the curved video projection encompassing crowds of 17,500, or 20,000 standing.

The Sphere does offer more questions about programming, at least at this point, than the previously mentioned venues. We understood Celine Dion would anchor the Colosseum, and Broadway touring shows would propel Reynolds Hall at the Smith Center. The Sphere presents so many questions, because of its arena-scale capacity. You might need the greatest live-entertainment concept of a half-century to consistently sell out this place.

The Sphere will draw from an array of entertainment mediums. The hall will be filled with superstar recording artists, naturally. But the list is short of such artists as U2, Taylor Swift, Foo Fighters or Justin Timberlake who could satisfy a Vegas-style residency. The Sphere will incorporate familiar live- and projection-entertainment formats, and expand them in a customized experience.

Madison Square Garden Senior Creative Director Gawain Liddiard and MSG Vice President of Creative Development Jill Morris provided a general preview in a company recruiting video this month. “Sphere really is a new artistic canvas,” Liddiard says in the minute-long clip. “It is not taking film and transferring it onto a bigger screen. It’s not taking Broadway or a traditional live show and putting it on a stage. It’s the ability to take people to new places, and build new worlds around them.”

Morris says The Sphere will stretch the imagination, and capture emotion. “It will have the spectacle and razzle-dazzle of a Super Bowl halftime show. It will have the resonance of an Olympics opening ceremony.”

How an acoustic set from a superstar rock band fits into this vision remains to be seen.

But the feeling here is MSG Sphere is going to need the biggest available stars to rotate in residency.

The arena model George Strait’s exclusive residency at T-Mobile Arena a half-dozen weekends a year. It will also need the gold-standard, live-entertainment experience of this decade. The Sphere is shooting high, beyond the 366 feet when the exosphere covering the venue’s exterior.

What might be lacking in a high volume of superstar recording acts capable of filling the venue will be complemented by ingenuity in theatrical programming. We’re going to experience a form of entertainment we haven’t seen yet, in Vegas or anywhere, when The Sphere launches in 2023. As Morris says, “It will speak to the world.”

Bono’s back

From The Sphere to the showroom, “The Dennis Bono Show” relaunches at South Point Showroom at 2 p.m. (doors at 1 p.m.) Thursday. A very Vegas lineup of Righteous Brothers Bill Medley and Bucky Heard, Frankie Scinta, Zowie Bowie, Michelle Johnson, the Bronx Wanderers and Kathleen Dunbar bring the show back after a 15-month pause.

Contact the South Point box office at (702) 797-8055 for reservations. The $5 ticket gets you a drink, and afternoon cocktails at BonoPalooza means Vegas is back.

Shriver, Ruvo and ‘Today’

Maria Shriver checked in on “Today” on NBC to mark the first anniversary of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement Prevention Center at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. The Vegas clinic is the nation’s first prevention center designed specifically for women.

Shriver noted the Ruvo Center in the five-minute report, noting the 100 women who have been treated, ages 30-60, and an outline of the center’s diagnostic and treatment programs.

Shriver’s father, the diplomat and political figure Sargent Shriver, died in January 2011 after battling Alzheimer’s for eight years. As Maria Shriver said Alzheimer’s was “a disease that ravaged his memory, and his mind, leaving my family to grieve even while he was still alive.” Shriver also hosted a fundraising event for the clinic in May.

Auditions action

Longtime Wynn Las Vegas casting director Louanne Madorma has headed up auditions for dancers in Vegas and Los Angeles last week. Word is this is for a new concept coming to Le Reve Theater in 2022. The host show closed in August.

Not Piff

Strong indications around the scene that a stage adaptation of “Enter The Dragon” is the production show planned for Paris Theater.“It’s better than nothing!” says Johnny Kats, of the theatrical version of the 1973 Bruce Lee martial-arts movie. Paris Theater has been dark since even before COVID.

Smiles!

Mr. Smiles & Molly is but a working title for the developing Criss Angel-Franco Dragone, pre-club experience we anticipate is headed for Angel’s theater at Planet Hollywood. I can’t guarantee everyone who reviewed that as a title knew “Molly” might be a taken as a drug reference.

Cool Hang Alert

Piero’s Italian Restaurant is returning live entertainment with Vegas vet Jimmy Hopper from 7:30 p.m.-11 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays. Pia Zadora and Sonny Charles are planning an October return of Pia’s Place on Fridays and Saturdays, relaunch dates to be announced.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which 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 jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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