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Vegas icons David Copperfield, Brad Garrett, Carrot Top returning to Strip

Updated October 20, 2020 - 8:27 am

It’s handy to have a few spare penthouses.

MGM Resorts International is proving as much by returning seven productions to its stages Nov. 6. Carrot Top, Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club, “Fantasy” at Luxor and Jabbawockeez’s “Timeless” shows are all moving into more spacious rooms in their return to action on the Las Vegas Strip.

Meantime, David Copperfield is returning “Live the Impossible” to his self-named theater at the MGM Grand, and Australian Bee Gees and Thunder From Down Under are back at Excalibur’s Thunderland Showroom.

Tickets for all shows are on sale now at www.mgmresorts.com/entertainmentnowopen. All shows will be capped at 250 seats, with strict COVID-19 safety precautions, especially mandatory mask wearing, being enforced. The tricky 25-foot rule, what’s being referred to commonly as the entertainment “moat,” is in place in every instance.

MGM Resorts President of Entertainment and Sports George Kliavkoff said the company aims to be as safe as possible, while opening live entertainment for the first time since mid-March.

“Entertainment is such a pillar of what we do in Las Vegas, and for us to put our thousands of employees who work on these shows back to work,” Kliavkoff said in a phone conversation Sunday. “I would say we’re in a unique, good position as MGM Resorts because we have so many venues that were able to take shows that can’t open up in their existing venues because of the 25-foot rule, and still open them successfully.”

The most intriguing reopening move is Jabbawockeez’s temporary relocation from the act’s own theater just off the MGM Grand casino floor to the Grand Garden arena. The plucky, and already masked, dance troupe will play to a crowd of 250 in a venue that can seat nearly 17,000.

Expect some strategic draping and piping for the Jabbas, who began their long-running Strip residency at the hotel’s Hollywood Theater (now Copperfield’s theater) in 2010.

Elsewhere, Garrett’s club is being relocated from his Underground location to Studio A and B Ballrooms, just off the promenade leading to the Grand Garden. Boxing fans know these ballrooms as the media center for major title fights at the Grand Garden.

That move probably staved off a further delay in the return of Garrett’s comedy lineup. That club is among several in town that would be undercut by the required 25-foot distance between the performer and nearest audience members.

Carrot Top and “Fantasy” are also relocating, from Atrium Showroom to Luxor Theater, most recently home to Cirque’s short-lived “R.U.N” production.

Staying in place are the Australian Bee Gees tribute and the Thunder From Down Under male revue. Notably absent is Hans Klok, the Dutch illusionist who closed his production and has moved his props out of the showroom and left for parts uncharted.

Though all of the returning shows are playing to a comparatively small seating capacity, the lineup represents several of the MGM Grand’s most successful headliners.

The dean of Vegas magicians, Copperfield typically sells out up to 15 shows a week and is returning to that busy schedule with two shows per night, three on Saturdays, with no dark days.

Carrot Top and “Fantasy” have both anchored Atrium Showroom for more than a decade.

Thunder has run for 18 years at Excalibur, where Australian Bee Gees have headlined since 2011.

The Jabbawockeez moved into their theater at the MGM Grand five years ago, advancing their 10-year run with the company.

Garrett has showcased his star power, and blistering stand-up act, at the MGM Grand since 2012.

Crucial to the shared entertainment experience is who will and won’t be required to be masked on stage. That ticklish detail is still being determined in talks between hotel execs and the Gaming Control Board. According to state-mandated protocols, dancers and comedians have been required to be masked while performing, though musicians and singers have not. But the 25-foot rule is likely to lead to a relaxing of the directive for comics to wear masks.

The shows are also working in a foreign business model in an unforeseen tourism market. The productions are not permitted to sell tickets on-site on the day of performances but can sell online anytime. Walk-up sales are traditionally critical to the success of smaller shows, as tourists decide on such productions impulsively.

Also, the new safety protocols could either entice people who want to be entertained in a theater without risk or repel folks who don’t want to wear a face cover through an entire show.

But Kliavkoff is an optimist. The resort exec says the pent-up appetite for entertainment should help fill MGM Resorts venues.

“I think we are not going to have enough seats for the folks that want to see these shows,” Kliavkoff said. “There is so much demand for entertainment. Because we are so limited in the number of seats that we can have in each of the venues, and because we are only opening across the entire city, a handful of shows, we think there are not going to be enough seats for the folks that want to attend the shows.”

Kliavokoff says this collection of shows is the proper point to restart live entertainment in Las Vegas. The return of headliners at Mirage Theater and Park MGM will have to wait.

“I don’t think we are ready to talk about the reopening plans for any shows beyond the seven that we are announcing,” Kliavkoff said. “We’re continuing to work with every one of our partners to figure out when the right time is to reopen the show. I think we are going to learn a lot starting Nov. 6.”

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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