I’m not saying it’s something I personally want to see. But I hate to see my friends who operate casinos miss out on the easiest money since the invention of keno.
With the "American Idols Live" tour headed for the Thomas & Mack Center on July 5, it once again begs the question, "Where’s the permanent, sit-down version of ‘American Idol’ on the Strip?"
"It’s crazy that it hasn’t happened. Can you imagine? It would sell out twice a night," says Andy Walmsley. He is both the "Idol" set designer and a Vegas producer himself, albeit on a modest level, with "Laugh Out Loud with The Scintas" at the Las Vegas Hilton.
I’ve long accused casino entertainment types of being imitators, not innovators. But there is a disconnect between the big entertainment ideas — some obvious, some less so — and the current reality of casinos serving as innkeepers, collecting rent from the more humble likes of magicians and comedians.
Not all big ideas are necessarily good ones. Michael Jackson? Mad as a hatter. Suppose a casino could get over that little matter of the trial — remember, he was acquitted — to build the gloved one a show full of spaceships and fire-breathing dragons. Suppose then he decided he wasn’t all that into it. Or didn’t feel well.
Some better ideas I’ve brought up before include "Spider-Man," with songs by U2 and The Edge. It’s in development for Broadway. Too late for a casino to come in with a better offer? My own personal favorite is Pink Floyd’s "The Wall," which was announced for Broadway in 2004, but seems to have been lost with producer Harvey Weinstein’s separation from his former movie studio Miramax.
But it doesn’t take much to imagine a permanent showcase for "Idol" duplicating Walmsley’s TV stage design, and a revolving showcase of four or five members of the talent show’s growing stable of alumni.
One week might feature Clay Aiken or Kelly Clarkson as headliner. More weeks would give you Reuben Studdard or Taylor Hicks. But, as with any show parked on the Strip, there would be strength in numbers and consistency in year-round marketing.
Walmsley figures two things. First, Disney World beat Las Vegas to the punch with an "American Idol" attraction set to open in January. This one is audience participation, not an alumni concert format. But, come to think of it, that might work just fine on the Strip, too.
But Walmsley says the rights to "Idol" are complicated to license. "I know all those (producers) very well, but I have the feeling they wouldn’t give them to me."
Of course, there will be other big ideas down the road. The power behind Las Vegas has been realigning in the past few years. The casinos themselves quit being hands-on producers of shows after underwhelming titles such as "EFX" and "Storm." MGM Mirage ceded most of its creative control to Cirque du Soleil, which certainly has its hands full right now with Criss Angel at Luxor and an Elvis show for CityCenter.
Harrah’s and Boyd Gaming have aligned themselves with AEG Live, which operates the Colosseum at Caesars Palace and will helm new venues inside Boyd’s Echelon and a sports arena adjacent to Bally’s. Since AEG also produces the "Idol" arena tour, you’d think it might steer a Vegas edition into Paris Las Vegas. But that company has been a little busy, too, launching the Cher and Bette Midler revues.
So the good news is the Strip now has big players with the ability to bring the big ideas home. The bad news is the big ideas take time, and maybe more new places to put them.
While we wait, there’s always Bo Bice at Santa Fe Station on July 26.
Mike Weatherford’s entertainment column appears Thursdays and Sundays. Contact him at 702-383-0288 or e-mail him at email@example.com.