Safe bet or long shot? 2 Vegas shows didn’t pay off

Two shows will close within three days this month. They are surprising in different ways, but both echo William Goldman.

“Nobody knows anything,” is the famous quote from the screenwriter’s memoir. “Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”

I haven’t met anyone beyond the creative team who would have bet their Floyd Mayweather money on “Duck Commander Musical,” which made show tunes of “Duck Dynasty.” It’s the speed of failure that surprises: It closes at the Rio on May 17 after a mere six weeks.

The more I learned about the show, the more it seemed to make sense. And that could well have been its trap. You can get so close to a project you can ignore that big-picture, first reaction: “Who the hell would pay to see that?”

One can argue that six weeks wasn’t even long enough to let the TV fans get here. But the production couldn’t wait. It was losing $250,000 a week.

That’s a fortune compared to the middle-tier Las Vegas shows in the same price range. Still, the “research and development” cost for “Duck” was a bargain compared to putting it up in New York, and it could still pay off in another market such as Branson, Mo., or Biloxi, Miss.

“The miscalculation was the inherent fan base we were told the Robertsons had,” director Jeff Calhoun says by email of the duck-call family. The future will shed more light on whether pop-culture fads jump the shark too quickly to invest in costly stage musicals, or whether the failure rested more on mundanities such as ticket pricing and the Rio’s off-Strip location.

The latter could also factor into The Scintas leaving The D on May 20, after two years. “It was just time,” says Frank Scinta, who in recent months was solo-billed for marketing reasons.

“The D has been great to us,” Frank says. But both sides “feel the need to change direction. Every once in a while you gotta do that.” The Scintas plan to spend the summer on the road and land in a new Las Vegas home next fall.

The surprise here? Why this didn’t pack a small room enough to make both sides happier. Beyond being crammed onto a tiny stage, the Scintas had the perfect setup for their classic-Vegas act. The D’s whole second floor is “Vintage Vegas” themed. The Scintas’ pal Joe Vicari offered a great $99 show-and-dinner deal at his Andiamo Italian Steakhouse. It makes you wonder where in Vegas the Scintas could do better.

Still, Frank says, “we draw an eclectic crowd from 30 to 70 with expendable cash, and a lot of them won’t stay downtown. A lot of them left the property right after the show instead of hanging around.”

The old-Vegas showmen and musical rednecks could share some concerns of geography and ticket inflation. But whether it was the “safe” bet or the seemingly insane one, nobody knew anything. Better to have bet on Mayweather.

Read more from Mike Weatherford at bestoflasvegas.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com.

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