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‘Legends’ to ledgers for new producer

Matt Lewis is shedding his Elvis jumpsuit to work the really sweaty side of the stage, attempting a jump from performer to producer.

After 11 years as a “Legends in Concert” Elvis, Lewis is now at the helm of a similar revue, “Tribute Royalty,” at the V Theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort.

“I think it kind of came down to when you move so far in a career you can’t advance any more,” Lewis says.

“This might break the hearts of some Elvis fans,” he adds, “but when I dropped out of school to become an Elvis impersonator it was more of a business decision (based on how much he heard one could make) than how much I loved Elvis.”

Lewis and his wife, Janell, a former “Legends” dancer now working as creative director on the new show, felt they had hit the rhinestone ceiling. They started producing their own show on the East Coast in 2005, and he left “Legends” for good in May.

It’s logical to make the leap after observing from the sidelines. But if Lewis pulls this off, he will be in fairly rare company.

One role model is Angela Stabile, the former “Crazy Girls” dancer who now produces “X Burlesque” with her husband, Matt.

If you don’t require producers of a Las Vegas show to actually live here, you could count the Blue Man Group. When the troupe first landed at the Luxor in 2000, the three co-founders still considered it important and symbolic to suit up for opening week.

But even then it was no longer an efficient use of their time, as the original blue baldies transitioned out of the cobalt greasepaint to helm a booming business.

Most performers are artistic types who wouldn’t last long in business school.

“I think I’d be terrible at it,” comedy magician Mac King says of the details handled by producer Bill Voelkner. “It doesn’t sound fun at all.”

Others eased into the challenge. Hypnotist Anthony Cools came to town with a pay guarantee from the Stardust. “I got a chance to see how Vegas works,” he says.

Gradually, he realized “it doesn’t take a rocket scientist” to figure out, for instance, that it’s cheaper in the long run to buy the trucks that haul mobile billboards up and down the Strip.

The list grows when you count active performers who self-produce with a small staff or landlord: magicians David Copperfield and Nathan Burton, mentalist Gerry McCambridge and comedians Carrot Top and George Wallace all do it in different degrees.

Like other tenants of the V Theater, Lewis doesn’t have to build an infrastructure to sell tickets. Despite his jokes about “Elvis and a showgirl” producing, “we assembled a very good team,” including business manager Josh Pearson, he says.

“I’m learning a lot from them every day,” says the man who has gone from jiggling hips to balance sheets.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at
mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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