Well, this is a different sort of rock of ages.
The little ol’ band from Texas, ZZ Top, is the motivation behind a new original musical planned by Caesars Entertainment. “Sharp Dressed Man” is scheduled for a 2020 opening at a Caesars venue in Las Vegas.
A ZZ Top-themed musical has reportedly been in development for about three years. Band members Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard are the project’s executive producers. Caesars Entertainment execs Michael Gruber and Jason Gastwirth are teaming with band manager Carl Stubner and Prem Akkaraju on the project.
Strubner helped develop the “ZZ Top: That Little ol’ Band From Texas” documentary. Stubner’s listed credits include MTV’s “Tomorrowland: Ten Years of Unity, Love Madness and Magic.” Robert Cary and Jonathan Tolins, who wrote script for “Grease Live!” on Fox, are writing the production’s book.
The comedy-rock musical is to invoke ZZ Top’s greatest hits (among them the title song, “Cheap Sunglasses,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’ ” “La Grange” and “Legs”) in a plot centered on a mechanic who takes on a Robin Hood identity. A news release from the production says the show “is an outrageous, bawdy musical romp about a Lone Star auto mechanic who becomes a modern-day Robin Hood, stealing hearts — and car parts — with the help of his merry band of beer drinkers and hell raisers.”
ZZ Top is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is set to tour Europe in June and July, returning to the U.S. in August and playing through the fall. Gibbons, the legendary guitarist and band co-founder who lives in Las Vegas, said in a statement, “We’re excited about this fantastic project and look forward to hearing our music in a new innovative context. Fans have often told us that we’ve provided the soundtrack to their lives, and this is very much in line with that kind of enthusiastic thinking.”
“Sharp Dressed Man” will attempt to succeed in a Strip ecosystem where other original productions, particularly “Marilyn — A New Musical” at Paris Theater, have faltered. “Baz,” also an original production — and a great one — closed last year at Palazzo Theater. Over the past three years, such rock-themed musicals as “Rock of Ages” at Rio (and formerly The Venetian), “Million Dollar Quartet” at Harrah’s and even the long-running “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas have gone dark after exhausting their ticket demands.
Caesars Entertainment certainly has venues available for animation. The company has no programming at Paris Theater, and Bally’s Jubilee Theater has tried out a headlining run with Dionne Warwick in April, but it, too, is absent any resident production. Such announced productions as “Nitro Circus” at Bally’s and “Sharknado Live!” (with no specified venue) were expected to be open by now, but remain unrealized.
Still, Caesars Entertainment opened “Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel The Concert” in April at Harrah’s and put up “The Greatest Piano Men” at Flamingo Las Vegas for a limited run in March to help shore up its showroom lineup.
The company is counting on an unlikely mix of Southern blues-rock and traditional musical theater to make a hit.
“ZZ Top holds a special place in American music history. Their songs incorporate rich imagery that lends itself to the narrative form,” Gastwirth said in a statement. “The addition of ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ to our already diverse entertainment lineup is exactly the component we are excited to welcome to the family for our guests.”
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, @JohnnyKats1on Instagram.