I like their attitude. And what they’re trying to do with “The Musical(s).”
Let’s not get too carried away and call them a sign that the recession has lifted. But two shows opening on the Planet Hollywood Resort grounds next month offer what we haven’t seen since a more risk-tolerant era: something different.
We’ll find out if either “Evil Dead The Musical” or “Surf the Musical” are good. But already they are not acrobats, magicians, impressionists or topless dancers.
“Evil Dead” producer Sirc Michaels asks if any other stage show started out as a community production before moving to the Strip. I couldn’t think of any. The campy musical in the “Rocky Horror” vein maxed out the tiny Onyx Theatre in two runs, and now jumps to the comparable big time of weekends at the V Theater starting June 22.
Michaels can’t conceive of any reason why this bloody spoof that requires front-row patrons to wear splatter-proof ponchos won’t work. And David Saxe, the theater landlord, admits the low-budget venture was motivated at least in part by being “just tired of the same old stuff,” including the notion of producing his own male revue to replace the departed “American Storm.”
“Evil Dead” has been staged off-Broadway and across the country, but “Surf the Musical” is created entirely from scratch, opening in the Planet Hollywood theater June 11. The stakes for the Beach Boys jukebox musical are higher here, given a Broadway-quality budget. But so is the potential reward.
Kristin Hanggi also directed the Broadway hit “Rock of Ages,” likely to wind up at The Venetian later this year. She calls herself a fan of “hybrid experiences” that defy both Broadway conventions and the Vegas variety tradition.
“ ’Rock of Ages’ was like half rock concert, half theater,” she says.
And “Rock of Ages” did go to Broadway after a brief test at the Flamingo in 2006.
But to ask why so much Las Vegas entertainment is the same ol’ same ol’ is to walk gingerly around the corpses of noble efforts that didn’t catch on. Titles new to the United States (“Notre Dame de Paris,” “We Will Rock You”) or entirely new creations (“Fashionistas”).
Las Vegas is surely an expensive test lab, but Hanggi says there is “something that for us is really freeing about opening up a new musical in Las Vegas. It really loosens up us as creators, cracking that nut and not necessarily working inside the box of what a Broadway musical has to be. It gives us a lot of freedom, if that makes sense.”
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.