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Wondering if crowds will be up for ‘Surf’

The ’80s-themed Broadway hit “Rock of Ages” is all but certain to be headed to the Strip. But its director gets a jump on herself with a new project that will debut at Planet Hollywood Resort.

“Surf the Musical” is what they call a “jukebox musical,” stitching the hits of the Beach Boys into a theatrical story. It has a “soft” opening June 11 and an official media premiere July 17.

There’s a bit of deja vu here for director Kristin Hanggi, as “Rock of Ages” played a week at the Flamingo Las Vegas in 2006, as part of its journey to Broadway three years later.

“A new musical is such that … every time you create one it’s like its own animal,” Hanggi says. “They each have their own path. You have to listen to your show and it will tell you what to do with it.”

But this path is surprising for a couple of reasons. For one, somebody already tried a Beach Boys musical, “Good Vibrations,” and it ran for only 94 Broadway performances in 2005.

Even more surprising on the local front is the dice-rolling on a new, unproven title, even a heavily branded one. Las Vegas hasn’t proved itself to be overly welcoming as a development ground for new works.

To cite perhaps the most relevant example: The Queen jukebox musical “We Will Rock You” had its U.S. debut at Paris Las Vegas, then withered on the vine for a year and change.

But the jukebox structure might be all the two titles have in common, especially if audiences simply like “Surf” better than they liked “Rock You.”

“I really do believe that at the end of the day everything is word of mouth,” Hanggi says. “If you don’t get somebody walking out going, ‘That was great, I’m going to tell everybody about it,’ I don’t know how anything really works except for that.”

Primary producer J. Burton Gold is not otherwise involved with show business, but after attending a Beach Boys concert made it “his mission to bring this to life,” Hanggi says.

The creative team is heavy with Broadway credentials, and the stage design will feature large-scale use of liquid-crystal display screens for an authentic beach vibe in the ’60s-themed musical, which Hanggi describes as “half summer vacation – with an iPod full of Beach Boys tunes – and half theater.”

The Planet Hollywood theater is operated by Base Entertainment, which also is involved in the rumored deal for “Rock of Ages” at The Venetian after the Blue Man Group moves to the Monte Carlo and the Tom Cruise movie version opens this summer.

However, the two musicals are otherwise separately financed ventures, with Base not invested in “Surf” beyond its landlord status. …

If “Rock” seems all but a lock for The Venetian, published reports elsewhere of “Book of Mormon” landing there for an extended run seem premature at best.

Broadway is a relatively small community, and some of those involved in The Venetian’s “Phantom” who would be looking for work after that show closes have been told not to count on a sit-down version of “Mormon.” …

Whoa! That kid from “Blossom” has grown up. Joey Lawrence, now 36, will be the next celebrity host of the Chippendales revue at the Rio. His stint June 7-24 at least catches the ad campaign for “Magic Mike,” the Channing Tatum flick about the life of male strippers hitting theaters June 29. …

Cheaper than a movie (in 3-D at least): Gerry McCambridge, aka “The Mentalist,” celebrates seven years in Las Vegas this week, offering locals $7 tickets – before fees and taxes – through Sunday. The price is only good for walk-up business, not advance purchases. …

Here’s a trade: Male strippers for reanimated corpses. The campy “Evil Dead: The Musical,” originally bound for the Plaza, will instead go to the V Theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood Resort. It opens June 22 to run on Friday and Saturday late shows.

In exchange, the male revue “American Storm” moved from the V Theater to the Plaza’s main showroom last week. It’s somewhat coincidental; the departure created space for a weekend show at the V, but “Storm” went into the main showroom, not the smaller upstairs theater originally earmarked for “Dead,” an off-Broadway title based on the cult movie franchise.

“In our town, tourists ensure longevity,” says producer-director Sirc Michaels, and he believes he can snag more of them on the Strip. And he agrees it can’t hurt that cult director Eli Roth is opening a year-round haunted attraction, the Goreatorium, in an almost-adjacent retail area.

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

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