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Pirate battle celebrates anniversary

Five years ago, it seemed like directing a live show seen by more than 10 million people would be hard to top.

But Treasure Island celebrates the fifth anniversary of its "Sirens of TI" pirate battle on Saturday, one day after director Kenny Ortega marks the opening of "High School Musical 3: Senior Year."

Ortega helmed all three of the Disney flicks that grew from a no-budget cable movie to a pop phenomenon. But he wasn’t yet known to millions of tots and tweeners when he was given the task of remaking the casino’s traditional battle between pirates and a British frigate into booty-shaking cheesecake.

"A pop opera seemed like a good idea — something that was accessible to a young Vegas crowd that was upbeat, sexy and interactive," Ortega noted recently to a publicist for the outdoor attraction.

Back when he still was rehearsing the makeover, Ortega told the Review-Journal, "A musical on two ships is not something you find yourself often being invited to. … We’re still using the theater of the ships but it’s more music driven; a contemporary rock pirate musical."

Saturday’s anniversary includes a special 11:30 p.m. performance with 15 minutes of material not in the usual show; additional acrobatics, pyrotechnics and a "guest Siren," AnnaLynne McCord, of "90210." The new stuff will play to a private party at the Christian Audigier nightclub, but much of it will be visible to those who gather in the usual vantage points. …

Six Degrees of Ortega: There’s a new wax figure of "High School Musical" star Zac Efron across the street from the pirate show at Madame Tussaud’s Las Vegas. …

The Hard Rock Hotel throws a topping-off ceremony Friday for its new North Tower of 479 hotel rooms, set for completion in September. I wondered if the new version of The Joint concert hall was part of that project. Several years ago, plans for a new Joint were running neck and neck with The Pearl at the Palms. It was to go up right behind the current venue, but that project was stalled with the sale of the hotel from Peter Morton to Morgans Hotel Group.

A new concert venue is indeed under construction, but it’s on the other side of the casino, extending into the Paradise Road parking lot. It will be twice the size of the current room — with a capacity of 4,000 — and may be finished as early as April, before the rest of the $850 million expansion. …

As the official opening of "Criss Angel — Believe" nears on Halloween, it looks like it’s more the economy than the bad-mouthed new competitor that has other magicians playing defense.

Either way, the two magicians named Burton offer strong promotions for locals. Nathan Burton is back in the swing of his afternoon show at the Flamingo Las Vegas after a couple of weeks off for back surgery; a bulging disc created immobilizing leg pains.

His show now has a $19.95 (plus tax) ticket and buffet combo for Nevada residents. The buyer chooses breakfast, lunch or dinner and the value increases as the day goes on; the buffet’s usual dinner price is $22.

Lance Burton offers Nevadans two-for-one tickets through Halloween. Those who buy tickets in person at the Monte Carlo box office can avoid the service charge added to phone and Internet orders. …

This one isn’t a discount but a potential audience-expander — and perhaps more evidence of hard times bringing back family-friendly marketing: The venerable "Jubilee!" at Bally’s will offer one "covered" show each Saturday at 7:30 p.m. starting Nov. 15. That opens the show to teens 13 and older, versus the usual minimum age of 18 for the topless version. …

"Shear Madness" is back on track for a Christmas Day opening in its free-standing theater at the Town Square shopping center. While December is traditionally a dead month on the Strip, the reverse could be true at this noncasino location.

"It definitely isn’t our preference" to miss the shopping traffic, says executive producer Terrence Williams. But given the options posed by construction issues, Williams figures one last holiday week is still better than waiting until after New Year’s. "The question will be how does a new show fare in one of the busiest weeks of the year?" …

Fans of raunch comedy and ’70s exploitation flicks noted the recent passing of comedian-rapper Rudy Ray Moore, best known for his racy albums and the 1975 movie "Dolemite." Moore lived in Las Vegas in recent years and listed it as home base on his MySpace page. But news accounts of the 81-year-old’s passing say he died in a nursing home in Akron, Ohio.

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

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