Producer blends nightclub, showroom

Like a Reese’s cup, show venues and nightclubs ought to taste great together instead of separately eating up casino space. Can Darin Feinstein be the guy who finally blends them?

Feinstein has been part owner of The Viper Room, a keystone of L.A. nightlife since 2005, and he also runs the nightclub-touring, party-packaging Vegas Hot Spots here.

Now he is set to take over the Rio showroom and former Club Rio, renaming it the Crown Theater and Nightclub, planning to open in June as an independently operated “four-wall” lease with Harrah’s Entertainment.

Feinstein plans 150 to 200 live events a year in the 900-seat room, which he envisions as a “rock ‘n roll, indy-type venue mixed with nightclub events,” the latter theming Asian, Latin and Top 40 to different nights of the week.

No one has quite made such a joint operation work in the tourist corridor. The Hard Rock Hotel’s Wasted Space is probably the closest competitor to what Feinstein has in mind, albeit with a smaller capacity of about 350.

“It’s definitely not a secret idea,” he says. “We would do a similar transition at Viper Room… The simpler your transition is, the easier it is for the people to want to stay and mill around.”

In past ventures, “No serious strategy was put into that,” adds Michael Weaver, vice president of marketing for Harrah’s Entertainment. Here, “It’s all one team of people, not a show team and a club team… They certainly have a vision for how they want this to work.”

Joe Rinaldi, who booked the Viper Room, will have the task of working between the House of Blues and larger-venue promoters to sign concert acts. “The way we view ourselves is a little different than the other venues,” Feinstein says of his rock leanings. “We’re going to be a very independent, progressive group that’s going to offer a lot of ideas that normally wouldn’t have made their way out here.”

Feinstein says Rinaldi has the connections to get big acts to step down from larger venues for cozier shows, along with booking “some of the bands that might not have come out here because (other) venues didn’t suit the type of audience they were going after.”

Weaver adds that with the recession crimping air travel, “We have more customers from L.A. than we’ve ever had before.”

The round room wrapped with “video walls” was home to one of the first casino-based nightclubs. Early evenings hosted ticketed acts including the late Danny Gans, but the shows were separate from nightclub operations. Little used in recent years, the room last served as the short-lived nightclub Fuego, though the Rio’s press release is more proud of the short reign by Prince in 2006.

Feinstein says the Crown name comes from the circular layout. It’s too big to be called a Viper Room, even though “We’ve looked at rooms in Vegas probably every year that I’ve been an owner.” …

Though it’s basically David Copperfield’s in all but name now, the Hollywood Theatre at the MGM is bringing a couple of fresh offerings to town, which will run concurrently in May.

In the 7:30 p.m. slot, “Girls Night: The Musical” sounds like it loves “Menopause the Musical” but didn’t want its audiences to wait for “the change.” The off-Broadway title offers female bonding to classic pop hits such as “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” It runs May 6 through 26.

Starting May 7, the hip-hop dance crew Jabbawockeez will share the room at 9:30 p.m. The troupe with the signature masks and gloves won “Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew.” …

Let’s see “Dao,” then hang at Tao. A new Chinese-themed revue, “Dao — The Asian Celebration” is set to open April 29 in the Riviera showroom that long hosted “An Evening at La Cage,” with an 8:30 p.m. start time after the 7 p.m. roommate production “Masters of Rock.”

The stage will be extended 10 feet to accommodate acrobatics, dance and martial arts. Producer Hou Chunyan performed in “Mystere,” but this is his first venture into the production side on the Strip. …

Finally, it really is an adult Disneyland. On Saturday, Paris Las Vegas hosts “Heart and Soul,” with Patti Austin and Lea Salonga, the voice of “Mulan” and Jasmine in “Aladdin.”

On the other side of the Strip, “Menopause the Musical” features Paige O’Hara, the voice of Belle in “Beauty and the Beast.”

Too bad Phil Harris and Louis Prima aren’t still around to do “The Jungle Book” thing too.

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

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