Shows reach out to locals casinos

Think you could sell 500 tickets on the Strip for a show starring Carmine Mandia, Ryan Baker, Larry Liso and Lisa Smith?

OK, let’s use their group name, Shades of Sinatra, to make it a little sexier. Still, good luck doing turn-away business on a Monday night.

But move the same group to the suburban Suncoast, and the picture changes. “You could not get a ticket if you wanted to,” producer Ed Mathews says of the final show in a Monday night series co-produced with Kelly Clinton.

The differences between the locals and tourists is old news, but the science of bridging the gap is becoming more refined. Producers on the Strip have become more aggressive in reaching out to locals. This summer’s locals discounts included comedians Rita Rudner and Marty Allen, “Menopause the Musical,” “The Producers,” and Elvis impersonator Trent Carlini.

Last Sunday, rock bottom pricing — $40 including a free buffet — guaranteed a sellout for a Rampart Casino ballroom concert by Debbie Reynolds, who has played The Orleans a hundred zillion times. Nothing like a loss leader and a change of slot club database.

But Mathews went the other direction and created his own custom-crafted product for an audience that is ready and willing — if the price is right.

“This has all been a lovely experience,” says Mathews, who moved to Las Vegas 15 years ago after retiring from a career in record industry promotions. He wrote a screenplay that didn’t sell, so he turned it into a radio drama that became the first of many shows staged at the Starbright Theater at Sun City Summerlin.

“Every (entertainer) that comes to town thinks they’re going to work on the Strip. When they get there, they find there is no work because there are hardly any rooms to play,” he notes.

On the other hand, locals casinos didn’t used to think much beyond one-night concert acts. The prevailing wisdom was that once residents have seen a show, they won’t come back for a while.

Mathews shot that theory down last year with the Las Vegas Tenors, a vocal group assembled by Bill Fayne, Clint Holmes’ musical director and stage foil. “People have come back as many as five and six times,” he says.

Lightning struck again this summer with the Sinatra-themed revue. Mathews said the act has to be “right for the area” and of a genre “they grew up with.” And it must be pointed out that while Mathews is an outside producer, Boyd Gaming integrated his tickets into its player’s club, treating his shows like in-house, company product.

Mathews is making a big leap Sept. 7 and 8, when the Las Vegas Tenors play the big room at the Hilton. But he’s hedging his bet with a plan to bus in residents from Summerlin. “I would assume we will probably get 400 or 500 people from here to each show.”

Mike Weatherford’s entertainment column appears Thursdays and Sundays. Contact him at 383-0288 or e-mail him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com.

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