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‘Shear Madness’ banking on locals

The producers of “Shear Madness” might be living up to their show title by challenging the very definition of Las Vegas entertainment.

Namely, they are opening a commercial production somewhere besides a casino.

Is that a collective shrug I sense from my pals and gals out there? Let it sink in. “Shear Madness,” an interactive murder-mystery comedy, is not community theater. It’s not a university-affiliated fine arts program. And it’s not going into a locals casino. It’s not even bound for a quasi-casino space, such as a shopping mall attached to one.

No, “Shear Madness” is building out its own 300-seat venue at the Town Square shopping center on Las Vegas Boulevard. As the newest beacon in a city that’s all about what’s new, the center lives up to its name. Compare the throngs of young, attractive people packing its bars to the casino floor of the Sahara — one of the producers’ other options — and you begin to understand why Town Square looked like a stronger choice.

But “Madness” faces a big question when it opens Nov. 7: Has Las Vegas grown to the point where locals can carry a show? Terrence Williams, executive producer of “Madness,” says the shopping center traffic is about 60 percent local, and 40 percent tourists from the Strip. (If rumors of a boutique hotel pan out, it would work in his favor, but there’s no guarantee.)

Limited options on the Strip also drove the decision. Williams says his show needs 300 seats, not a lot more or less, for the right balance of audience participation. The security of a seven-year lease was an added bonus. And being able to operate the bar was “a huge plus.”

In other cities, comedy clubs exist on ticket revenue and liquor sales. And in bigger cities such as Los Angeles, residents check out alcohol-friendly titles such as “Point Break Live!” an absurd spoof of the surf flick, where a random crowd member is chosen each night to play the Keanu Reeves part by reading cue cards.

But other cities don’t have a Strip full of 70 shows. That’s why “Point Break” will have an uphill battle after inking a deal on Wednesday to go into the V Theater at the Miracle Mile Shops starting Oct. 1. Some titles still manage to thrive there, between a rock and a hard place: No casino comps or slot-club tie-ins, and locals still hate parking on the Strip.

Kelly Leonard, vice president of The Second City, says he isn’t too keen on a stand-alone location after his comic troupe recently departed the Flamingo Las Vegas. “Honestly, I think it needs to be a casino, because especially now, the drive for getting an audience to your show has never been harder,” he says. “I think we need the muscle of casino marketing power behind us to hit the kind of capacity we’d like to hit.”

So “Shear Madness” pushes into the vast space between the Strip and the farthest South Point. A brave, bold pioneer? Or just plain crazy?

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

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