Here’s hoping creativity succeeds

The future of "Absinthe," and my interest in its fate last week, says a lot about the sorry state of entertainment on the Strip.

At least this glass of green, vaporous booze can be seen as half-full, if the emptied half filled you with optimism.

To quickly recap: The circus-burlesque show full of fun-seedy attitude was one of the only new shows this year, period. Is that reason enough to root for the producers to close a deal that will bring it back in a more permanent structure?

Absolutely, says any vendor, consumer or reporter of Las Vegas entertainment whose prosperity depends on anything new bringing a jolt of energy to the whole scene.

Here’s another big reason to pull for it: It’s not a magic show, which accounted for most of the other new product that trickled in this year. It’s actually close to a fresh idea. Close enough in the way a Jumbo Jack is close enough to a steak if you haven’t eaten all day.

Yes, the tent show that closes its initial run today is sort of a circus. But it plays more like a spoof of Cirque du Soleil, even if parts are more-than-spoofily close to "Zumanity." Or the low-budget "Freaks," which carved out some of the same ground at O’Sheas in 2009.

You can debate the definition of "original," whether it’s all in the execution, or whether we liked it because we skipped lunch. At least "Absinthe" wasn’t a "new" show we’ve already seen eight times. If the cast of "La Cage" wonder why they aren’t generating similar excitement, there’s a big part of the answer. Same goes for Steve Wyrick and other magicians doing variations on old themes.

I’m not just picking on the little guys. Who just can’t wait for Cirque’s Michael Jackson show? What? Can’t hear you. We love Cirque and hope it makes money for everyone. It’s sure to do right by Jackson’s hits. But you can’t compare this crass money-in-the-bank venture with the surprise and wonder that "Mystere" first brought to the Strip.

In a roundabout way, "Absinthe" also points out the disconnect between the dearth of fresh ideas on the Strip and the abundance of creativity in its shadows. Voki Kalfayan, who plays the ringmaster, first put up "The Gazillionaire Show" at the tiny Aruba Hotel, organized by a group of show folks as the New American Theatre Project.

But that was essentially a coincidence to "Absinthe" and Kalfayan eventually joining forces and arriving here via New York. Still, these two worlds could merge a bit with Insurgo Theater Movement bringing "Cannibal! The Musical" to the relaunched Plaza downtown.

It may not have the "Thriller" ghouls’ budget, but some new ideas for a change might be even more valuable.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at or 702-383-0288.

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