Is there a mysterious phantom lurking backstage in the theater at Paris Las Vegas, trying to sabotage everything that goes on there?
Back when Paris Las Vegas was under construction in 1999, there was talk of landing the Andrew Lloyd Webber cash cow “Phantom of the Opera” — or better yet, an exclusive-to-Vegas sequel.
Instead, the room went to another musical version of a French literary classic, “Notre Dame de Paris” (making its very first mistake by not using the more familiar English title, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”).
Thus began a 10-year, tragicomic history of failure for the 1,200-seat theater. A curse? A run of really bad ideas? I would argue it’s more a history of credible, nice-try ideas, which either came at the wrong time or were poorly executed.
■ “Notre Dame de Paris” (January-July 2000): Interesting notion here, matching a Paris-themed show to a Paris-themed property. The plot was a downer. But so, one might say, is “Les Miserables.” The big difference might have been lack of familiarity or a big song; no “I Dreamed a Dream” to pre-sell it.
■ “We Will Rock You” (September 2004-December 2005): After marking time for a couple of years with the likes of Jeff Foxworthy and Wayne Brady, the theater hosted another new-to-the-U.S. musical, this one a satiric sci-fi “jukebox” musical of Queen songs.
It wasn’t all bad, and commendable for thinking out of the box. But it wasn’t very good either. A year in, producers pruned a half-hour from the dense, jokey script. Ultimately, Queen’s legacy in the States didn’t reach far enough beyond classic-rock radio and sports stadiums.
■ “The Producers” (February 2007-February 2008): Six years late to the game, mercilessly shorn of important story and songs, and stunt-cast with David Hasselhoff. Otherwise, no complaints, as Mel Brooks might say.
■ Barry Manilow (March 2010-December 2011): After a long wound-licking hiatus, the theater embraced a veteran headliner. Apparently, the real problem here was Manilow only crooning 78 nights per year and what the heck to put in there the rest of the time.
And so, those close to the deal say, Paris gives the keys away to “Jersey Boys,” making the Broadway smash an offer to leave the Palazzo no one could refuse. You might wonder if the Frankie Valli musical already spent its most exciting years on the Strip, and whether interest will fade.
But what’s there to lose, really? You can’t blame Paris for wanting a safe, proven hit after effectively being punished for original thinking.
Lloyd Webber did eventually get his “Phantom” sequel “Love Never Dies” off to a wobbly launch in England and Australia.
And at this point, the Paris is probably grateful it never landed that one either.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.