Big orchestra, modest prices promised by new presenter of ‘concert’ musicals

as Vegas has such a wealth of talent, it’s sometimes hard to tell a pro venture apart from community theater.

Bill Fayne has a fairly simple way of drawing the line. In the latter, “no one gets paid.”

His new venture, INC Productions, plans to land on the “at least a stipend” side of the defining line, even if it will otherwise blend talent ranging from students to veteran performers. “For the season next year, everyone will be paid, which is not what they do in the other theater companies in town,” he says.

The plan to stage Broadway musicals in a full-orchestra, limited-staging “concert” format was to launch Friday with a fundraising concert at Sam’s Town, which also will host planned two-weekend productions of “Gypsy” in April, “Pirates of Penzance” next summer and “Meet Me in St. Louis” in the fall.

Most locals first met Fayne when he was the musical director and stage foil for Clint Holmes. He has been involved in too many shows to count since Holmes’ run ended at Harrah’s Las Vegas in 2006.

But the ones paving the way to this new venture were concert productions of Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” in 2012 and “Les Miserables” the next year.

For those not fully addicted to PBS, a concert version is the full musical with all the dialogue, but with limited costumes and stage movement and no set. Musically, however, an orchestra of at least 30 players will accompany each show, larger than most touring musicals at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Ticket prices will still be more attuned to a locals casino: $25 general admission and $40 for preferred seating. Fayne’s performing partners in the new venture are Amanda Kaiser, Ayler Evan, Laurina Hendrickson and Adriana Lomysh Campbell. The not-for-profit partner is the Positively Arts Foundation, providing voice and acting programs for students. …

The most poorly kept secret in town (as opposed to the best kept: Who was the dude in the stripper scandal?) seems to be “Rock of Ages” moving from The Venetian to the Rio.

The publicity firm that sent out the show’s modified holiday schedule isn’t commenting. But make what you will of the fact that no Venetian tickets are on sale beyond Jan. 3. Ticketmaster also has taken to calling the Rio venue the Rock of Ages Theater, though no dates were yet listed there.

If you really have your heart set on seeing the campy ’80s tribute at The Venetian, read between the lines. Truth be told, it will probably be a lot of fun in the Rio’s clublike circular showroom, as long as they don’t squeeze in too many rows of folding chairs. …

Time to score the Thanksgiving turkey and, in Las Vegas, think about where you’re going to take restless company once the bird is reduced to leftovers.

The vocal quartet Human Nature will offer a second year of “Christmas, Motown and More!” at The Venetian starting Nov. 21. This year’s guest is Ruby Lewis, who isn’t as famous for cable news as last year’s, Robin Meade, but blew the doors off in the short-lived “Baz” revue (which may not be so short-lived if it replaces Bob Anderson’s “Frank” tribute at the Palazzo as rumored.)

“Legends in Concert” gets out the holiday trimmings Nov. 23 through Dec. 24. The tribute artists include Elizabeth Scarborough as Taylor Swift, Brian Duprey as Frank Sinatra — he will come in handy on the Chairman’s birthday, Dec. 12 — and Damian Brantley, the best of the Michael Jackson impersonators I’ve seen here in town.

And while he can’t help you Thanksgiving weekend, no one loves Christmas more than Mirage ventriloquist Terry Fator, who stages “A Very Terry Christmas” from Nov. 30 through Dec. 24. …

Meanwhile, Fator’s roommates at The Mirage, Boyz II Men, won’t face the “End of the Road” for three more years.

The venerable R&B trio announced last week the casino will continue to host it through 2018, and it will continue to work in three-day stints roughly two weekends each month.

Last year, the group sounded so fond of its Las Vegas gig that it was hoping to do more than the three nights available when Fator is off.

“If they give us one more day a week, we might have to get a residence out here,” Nathan Morris said of singing partners Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris, who fly in from different cities.

The show dates for the first half of 2016 are February 26-28; April 1-3, 15-17, 29-30; May 1, 13-15; June 3-5 and 10-12. …

Finally, they promised us jet packs. And holograms. Both still seem to be in need of a little more work, based Celine Dion’s show.

Dion has performed duets with dimensional illusions of Andrea Bocelli and Stevie Wonder (In fact, I knew I have officially been in Vegas too long when Wonder started singing “Overjoyed” at Life Is Beautiful and I excitedly told friends, “That’s the song his hologram does with Celine!”)

When she debuted a new show after a year’s absence in August, the illusion was still part of the show. But last week’s return to Caesars Palace offered only a video-screen encore of her 2007 “American Idol” duet with Elvis Presley, while she changes gowns backstage.

Producers say the live holographic duets could return down the road. But the fact that this type of video trickery hasn’t improved much in nine years is a reminder that the illusion works better on TV than it does when witnessed from multiple angles by a live audience.

Even the most famous “hologram” (which in “Michael Jackson One” is less like “Star Trek” and more like a Disney Haunted Mansion “Pepper’s Ghost” — Google if you’re not familiar ) was the Tupac cameo at Coachella in 2012. And when you think about it, most of that massive audience was watching a screen instead of the actual stage as well.

Plus, they probably had some serious weed there.

So we’re still waiting for that Liberace hologram show, which generated a lot of press when it was announced early this year. But not waiting too hard.

— Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com and follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.

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