Venues take on new look

After weeks of writing about shows and theater closings, it’s refreshing to have a column’s worth of, well, if not new construction, at least some encouraging activity to refurbish ballrooms, old lounges and showrooms.

The Eastside Cannery surpassed the North Las Vegas original in many departments, but show space wasn’t one of them. The casino has redressed the issue by converting a ballroom into the multipurpose Casablanca Event Center.

The space seats 1,100 people and has its first ticketed concert Friday with LeAnn Rimes. She is followed by the Commodores (Feb. 27), Eddie Money and John Waite (March 20), Jenni Rivera (April 10) and Ronnie Milsap (May 15).

"I think it’s a very important part of our growth here," says Marty Gross, vice president and general manager. "The idea of entertainment is to expand the customer base."

The bookings are diverse to reach a wide audience, Gross notes. He pushed especially hard for Rivera, who performs in Spanish, to reach out to Latinos.

The room still has flat-floor seating and a temporary stage for each event, but the Cannery made a big commitment to sound-treating the room and buying new sound and lighting equipment, Gross says. …

Retro-styled crooner Matt Goss won’t be on the sidelines long after closing at the Palms last week. Caesars Palace officials planned to announce today that Goss will move into the casino’s swingin’ ’70s-era Cleopatra’s Barge on Fridays and Saturdays, starting March 12 and 13.

The lounge will be recarpeted and otherwise spruced up for a format that is much like the Palms: ticketed shows for Goss and his band, with the room curtained off for a capacity of about 150.

It’s produced by Pussycat Dolls creator Robin Antin, so it makes sense that Goss landed close to her Pussycat Dolls Lounge, adjacent to Pure nightclub at Caesars.

Caesars’ main show space, the 4,100-seat Colosseum, begins its post-Bette Midler future Monday, after the Divine one bows out Sunday. No new resident act has been signed to replace her.

Cher returns for much of April and May, but all other dates are one- or two-night concert bookings. They include newly announced Lionel Richie shows March 26 and 27, as well as Mariah Carey (Feb. 27), Jeff Dunham (March 19 and 20) and Chelsea Handler (May 29).

The Colosseum is operated by concert promoter AEG Live, which also hires the front-of-house staff — ushers and the like — and will thus be motivated to fill up the calendar to keep its crew working. …

Meanwhile, the theater formerly home to magician Steve Wyrick is officially on the market. Russ Joyner, general manager of the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood, confirms the mall is "in control of the future of that location" after Wyrick’s investors defaulted, and says he already has fielded "a number of inquiries."

Joyner adds that "our first choice" is for the venue to remain a show space. "We’re looking at those options specifically. We’re very atypical as a shopping center to be able to have these kinds of venues." …

He calls it "a dream come true." But longtime entertainer and TV host Tony Sacca also has his work cut out for him, filling 20,000 square feet of the downtown restaurant and club that used to be Jillian’s, in the largely deserted Neonopolis on Fremont Street.

The former gaming and bowling emporium is big enough to hold not just the Las Vegas Rocks Cafe — home of Charo’s Chili and the Louis Primavera Pasta — but two performance spaces.

The lounge-sized Marquee Room is up and running. Mondays are devoted to stand-up comedy hosted by the 6-foot-3 "Mr. Bigfoot," James Scott. Jazz saxophonist Gary Anderson takes over on Tuesdays, assembling bands for various themed programs; next week it’s "Giants of Jazz Guitar."

The larger showroom debuts at 7 p.m. Saturday with veteran comedian Norm Crosby, a $50 ticket supporting the Las Vegas Walk of Stars organization.

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

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