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Variety show moving into iconic downtown Las Vegas hotel

Updated May 16, 2024 - 9:53 pm

She is almost ready for her return to show-biz majesty.

We speak not only of Amy Saunders, but also the room she’s about to make her new/old playground, Plaza Showroom. Saunders routinely refers to the room as “she,” and “her,” as she revives the variety show “Mavericks” on Oct. 2.

This an open-ended engagement, the latest adaptation of the show Saunders hosted at Cheapshot on Fremont East in 2022.

With Saunders, creator of the brilliant “Miss Behave Game Show,” as emcee and featured artist, “Mavericks” is a happy hodgepodge of specialty acts, reminiscent of a traveling circus, county fair or Edinburgh Festival Fringe performances. The show is set inside what the show creators and hotel CEO Jonathan Jossel pridefully say is the most distinctive showroom in all of Vegas. At the parcel where the city was born, in a glad turn of events.

And what, in the name of burgundy-velvet curtains, will we experience in this adventure?

‘Up for a good time?’

“Essentially, what you’re gonna see is good, old-fashioned uncomplicated entertainment, but done modern,” says Saunders, emphasizing that point by donning a Rat Pack-style tux and a “Folies”-style headdress for a photo shoot in the Showroom. “What that means is, we’re not putting a story over the top of anything. You’re gonna walk into a beautiful room that you are going to enjoy being in. We will be onstage going, ‘Hello, I see you. Up for a good time? Here’s a great act. Hey, again, here’s another great act. Hey, the bars are really cheap. P.S., here’s another great act.’”

The show opens Oct. 4, running 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sunday; and 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays (dark Mondays and Tuesdays). Tickets run $35 for locals (limited availability online, always available at the door) to $49 for single seats, stepping up to $99 for “The Best Booths.” Those prices don’t bloom when you hit the mavericksdtlv.com website, as no fees are attached (cue the “APPLAUSE” sign).

The show is co-produced by an entertainment consortium of Saunders; Matt Franzetti, late of Spiegelworld and BASE Entertainment; Scott Prisand of “Rock of Ages,” “Elvis Presley Heartbreak Hotel In Concert,” and Criss Angel’s stage show; Michael Speyer of “Peepshow,” “Absinthe,” “Rock of Ages,” “Million Dollar Quartet,” Mat Franco’s show and also Angel’s production; and Rob Kolson, a veteran Broadway producer and owner of Apollo Theatre in Chicago.

“Mavericks” will present seven-to-eight performers in 12-to-14 acts, in two 45-minute segments split by an intermission. Saunders, who is a world-class, improv-comedy stage performer and also renowned sword-swallower, stitches it all together.

It’s a circus, but more

“We will open with some circus skills, some burlesque,” Sanders says. “I’m in it, so we’ll have some swallowing. We’ll have some unusual and funny people.”

Saunders, Franzetti and Jossel (as the show’s landlord) are clearly enamored of their surroundings. Plaza Showroom dates to 1971. So, it seems, does some of its trodden-upon carpeting. The room is structurally untouched since its infancy, even after extensive stage and tech modifications of its most recent production, the inspired but revenue-leaking “A Mob Story” (mention the show to Jossel, and he still winces).

That show ran lasted from September through December 2018; one of it great scenes was real cash cascading from the ceiling, metaphorically indicating the production’s financial woes.

“A Mob Story” underscores the great challenge of selling hard tickets to a production show on Fremont Street. Why pay to see entertainment when there is free live music on all of its stages, and even a pretty decent ventriloquist on Circle 17?

Buck that trend

In the face of that trend, Plaza Showroom has attempted the “Mob” show, and before that “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” and also comedy with the late Louie Anderson and later the Comedy Works series. Nothing has stuck.

Franzetti is aware of the history, and is determined to lead a change in attitude at 1 Main Street.

“For a while, there’s been this misconception that shows don’t play downtown, or downtown doesn’t have shows, and that’s for the Strip,” Franzetti says. “I do think that we’re seeing a major change with that. I think downtown is ready for it. When I saw ‘Mavericks’ at Cheapshot, I loved it, instantly. I went up to Amy right after and said, ‘What are your plans for this?’”

Franzetti loved the possibility of evolving the show from its 99-seat Cheapshot spot to Plaza Showroom, which tops at 420 for “Mavericks.”

“I walked in, and I was like, ‘Holy (expletive), how is this just sitting here?’” Franzetti says. “I had been in Vegas for like five years, and I had never even heard that it existed.”

Walk, then run

There are touches in the room that Saunders wants to investigate for vintage-Vegas shtick. A balcony on house right, for instance, would be a fine spot to plant Vegas celebs to interject commentary about the show. Like, the geezer cronies Statler and Waldorf from “The Muppet Show.”

The show will grow in its ambition and imagination after its October opening.

“We want to make sense of what we are doing, before we do it. It’s more about not running before you can walk, right now,” Saunders says. “I want it fast and funny. I want you to walk in feeling like you’ve been hugged by this room. That’s the point of it.”

Cool Hang Alert

The “Chris & James Piano Show” plays 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Thursdays at Amp’d at M Resort. Chris Mavridis and James Hill co-star. No cover, 21-over, requests and gratuities welcome.

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 X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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