‘Rock of Ages’ tightens Broadway show, but only a bit

For those who must take a pause for the cause, here’s what you miss: The Quarterflash hit “Harden My Heart” alternating with Pat Benatar’s “Shadows of the Night.”

“Rock of Ages” officially debuts Saturday (after a monthlong “soft” opening) at The Venetian, bringing Broadway back to the Strip and with it weighty questions I thought might never be discussed in this column again.

How much do you cut the running time? And do you have an intermission or skip it?

In both cases, the “Rock” producers followed the lead of the Strip’s lone Broadway survivor, “Jersey Boys.” They tightened the show by a few minutes with subtle cuts, but preserved the two-act structure with a brief – and by brief I mean seven minutes – intermission.

As with “Jersey Boys,” the potty break is marked by a countdown clock, here charmingly dubbed a “Whizzmaster 5000” to keep with the show’s humor.

But there were still a few bugs in the system, judging by the dozens of people who came streaming back into the theater at the designated moment of Act 2, after being held back in the lobby. And this even after an extra minute or two allowed when the countdown clock expired.

The running time is inside baseball for producers negotiating union contracts, but it also can affect how a show plays to the audience. I thought cutting “The Producers” to 90 minutes mortally wounded the story, but “Phantom” was improved by a peppier 95 minutes.

“Rock of Ages” clocks in at just more than two hours, including the seven-minute break. I’ll make you wait until next week’s review for my verdict on how it plays, but here is what the director said.

“I think the show is chock-full of great songs you don’t want to lose, and chock-full of funny,” director Kristin Hanggi noted a few weeks back. “That’s how lean it is. There’s not a lot of extra fat in our show.”

“People had seen the ‘Jersey Boys’ model and how well that worked, and knew that was the right trajectory for this show,” Hanggi added. …

It’s hardly the New Year’s nail-biter of the fiscal cliff. But at this writing, January began without a firm plan in place for the future of the Plaza’s showroom and four titles hoping to reopen there this month.

A few weeks ago, show producers complained to management about how the room was being run by third-party operator (and Paris Las Vegas hypnotist) Anthony Cools.

Cools decided to leave instead of argue, and this week is removing his light and sound gear.

“Time will tell whose fault it was,” Cools said, based on how the shows fare if and when they reopen. Based on how poorly most of them have performed, the producers are “running out of places to point their fingers.”

The holidays slowed down a decision on who will now run the venue, but Matthew Resler – co-producer of “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and “Grand Ole Vegas Revue” – said he is hoping the Plaza will sign off on a co-op style of plan where the resident shows would create a new entity to run box office and backstage operations.

“Bite” producer Tim Molyneux hopes to rejoin Resler’s two shows along with “The Phat Pack” later this month. “They want us back, and we want to be back,” he said. …

The durable “Country Superstars,” a country riff on the “Legends” format, took its last bows at the Golden Nugget Sunday, and plans to reopen Jan. 14 in the V Theater at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort.

The country show will run at 6 p.m., sharing a second-floor venue with “The Mentalist” and “Legwarmers.”

The Golden Nugget was ready to let the show’s contract lapse after running its course with repeat customers, and “Superstars” was happy to get an earlier-evening time slot (it ran at 9:30
p.m.) and a weekly schedule of six shows instead of five. …

“Superstars” actually launched in 2007 at The D, when the downtown property was still known as Fitzgeralds. The little showroom there just reopened as part of a larger remodeling of the property.

Exterior walls have been pushed out to add about 60 seats, creating a seating capacity of between 200 and 220 people. The tiny stage has been extended and the backstage area now has dressing rooms.

All that will come in handy, as The D plans to have three more titles – an afternoon show, a 9 p.m. entry and a 10:30 p.m. topless dance revue – join “Marriage Can Be Murder,” which just moved back in after roosting in a nearby ballroom during the remodeling.

For now, one of those three will not be comedy-magician Kevin Burke, who used to dash over and do his “Fitz of Laughter” after completing “Defending the Caveman” at other venues.

Burke is still busy enough with “Caveman,” which signed a three-year extension at Harrah’s Las Vegas, and plans to update both its script and set. …

Finally, another reminder of where we live. Only in Vegas could a single week offer both the Eagles (they played Sunday at the MGM Grand Garden) and six nights later, “Hotel California – A Tribute to the Eagles” at the Suncoast.

The $17.50 for the tribute band would have at least covered a couple of beers at the real deal’s arena show, which was $71 for the cheapest seat.

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

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