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Entertainment trends make sense, until they don’t

Talking to myself must be an only-child thing. I do it all the time.

But I didn’t think I was doing it when a friend introduced me to an investor in “Band of Magicians” on the show’s opening night at the Tropicana.

I started to wonder if I wasn’t fluent in Australian, as I started explaining that I had been trying to get in touch with one of the producers, to float other producers’ claims that Tropicana shows can’t be viable unless they share the union stagehands costs with roommate productions. How would this one make it work, opening right after “Cherry Boom Boom” had closed?

No answer. The pleasant gent talked about how well the touring magic show had fared in Australia, and how its producers felt it seemed like a natural for Las Vegas.

But now the “Band” is closing at the Trop on Monday. And last week also brought the news that “53X” is going on “hiatus” at Paris Las Vegas to “seek out a more suitable venue.”

That puts us up to at least 16 titles that have closed this year or announced the end is in sight. So I’ll keep talking to myself, spending the rest of this column in an internal monologue about why Las Vegas entertainment trends make sense, until they don’t.

OK, dude, you’ve said before that Las Vegas has too many shows, especially the little cheap ones that don’t really need to be here. So maybe this is just a painful, but overdue attrition.

Yeah, I could be right. The Las Vegas Advisor crunched the average ticket prices for more than 100 shows last year, not counting weekend comedians or concerts. Depending on whether you count part-time visitors such as Boyz II Men, we seem closer to 75 or 80 now.

Broadway has about 32 titles (depending on how you count limited runs and/or nonmusicals) and — this surprised me — another 54 off-Broadway shows. So we’re closer to even.

But, self, it can’t be healthy for a hotel to have an empty main showroom, as they now do at the Tropicana, Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas.

And a lot of the big shows are the casualties. The vacuum seems to be filled by the little stuff: a bunch of titles jammed into the former buffet upstairs at Bally’s in lieu of the big, iconic “Jubilee” theater downstairs.

Well, sir, last week you also covered Ricky Martin’s announcement of recurring concerts at the Park Theater next year. They will have a lot of visual spectacle courtesy of director Jamie King, who also did “Michael Jackson: One.” So maybe Martin and J-Lo and Britney are the new “Jubilee,” bringing home the old-Vegas spectacle King lifted for Madonna and other road shows.

I can’t argue with me there.

So, as these big concert shows seating 5,000 people or more become the new normal, it might even make sense that what hangs on won’t be “ShowStoppers” or “Jubilee,” but the little titles for niche audiences, impulse buyers and bargain hunters.

Maybe, but another thing about Ricky Martin is his bilingual appeal. Rick Arpin, MGM Resorts International senior vice president of entertainment, noted Latin performers are “demographically great for Las Vegas” and its Southern California feeder markets. So a lot of these seats could be filled by new customers, instead of redirected ones.

But either way, the more cab tops, billboards and building wraps adorned by these concert stars, the harder the standing shows are going to have to work to get noticed.

So what’s up with “53X”? In my review I said the coed dance revue would be “OK if we had to watch it from theater seats,” but its club setting (in Chateau at Paris Las Vegas) really made a true cabaret show and edged close to the Holy Grail of show marketing: stealing back some of the stolen nightclub crowd.

But now, a press release says “the dynamics of mounting, and sustaining, a full-scale production show in a non-traditional venue proved to be challenging.”

Yeah, this idea seemed to have so much promise, I’d be bummed if it turns out people go to shows because they really hate nightclubs.

But my “53X” review also said the “ultra-wide and narrow stage, interrupted by structural beams, wasn’t really designed for this kind of thing. The sight lines are awkward for those in the rows of folding chairs on the left.”

I noticed the same thing at “Shotspeare,” a crowd-participation comedy in another retrofit lounge at Planet Hollywood. If it started to sell tickets, a lot of people would be stuck in folding chairs to the side of the action. So much for the party vibe.

The remodeled Palazzo comes closer to getting it right for “Baz” and Clint Holmes. But I think what’s missing in all these efforts may be the lack of a pre-show, or at least creating a fun environment from the moment you walk in. But it’s tough to do that with two shows sharing a room.

And why is that? If there are too many shows to begin with, why has stacking them in a room become the new normal?

That’s a long answer, better left for another day’s internal argument. But it may be the key to the whole mess. Casinos farm out the shows and sometimes even the venues now. While gaming folk might see two different audiences as more traffic flow past the blackjack tables, show producers can see it as in-house competition. Except when it’s time to split the stagehands bill.

I think I get me now. Time to argue about something new. What’s for lunch?

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

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