Harvey Fierstein, the star of "Hairspray" which played the Luxor in 2006, had a few unkind words to say about Vegas during a recent New York television talk show.
On Jan. 29, New York Post columnist Michael Riedel — co-host of PBS’s "Theater Talk" in the Big Apple — noted that the Tony-winning actor had ventured out to Sin City following his Broadway run. Riedel asked, with a laugh, "How were those Vegas audiences?" Fierstein responded with a lengthy monologue.
"They had those God-long drinks that they actually hang around your neck, and they would come down the aisle with two of them, and the glasses clanked together, like two pendulous breasts … with the popcorn in one hand and the hot dog in the other."
He called the Luxor a "black tomb" designed for a chariot race.
He said most of the time the cast was confused.
"(The show) was cut to 90 minutes," he said. "It was 2 hours and 35 minutes on Broadway. We didn’t know what we were saying. It was just, ‘Change your clothes! Change your clothes! Change your clothes!’ It was insanity. And we did three shows a night!"
Needless to say, some locals were not amused.
Nevada Conservatory Theatre chief Robert Brewer, who arranged rehearsal space for "Hairspray" at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, commented, "This is so typical and small. And talk about slapping the hand that feeds you! If it’s beneath Harvey to work in Vegas, he certainly had no problem taking our money. And, finally, none of what Harvey said is true. People do not carry hot dogs and drinks around their necks into the theater. Harvey did a malicious stand-up at Las Vegas’ expense."
Vegas’ "Hairspray" co-producer Myron Martin was more diplomatic.
"No, we never had a three-show night," he said. "I’m sure this was just Harvey’s way of exaggerating the story — just like the yardlong drinks, popcorn and hot dogs, which we didn’t have.
"The Luxor did serve drinks, but they did not sell yardlong drinks with straps around them.
"I’m sure I speak for (co-producer) Michael Gill when I say we love Harvey Fierstein. I’m sure he had a good time telling this story for the NYC theater establishment. It’s unfortunate that his comments help to perpetuate the myth about Las Vegas.
"I still believe that the 90-minute show worked really well here."
The broadcast made me feel guilty for having enjoyed "Hairspray." Vegas theater certainly deserves its share of criticism. But a major stage star belittling the progressive and sometimes successful attempts here to host Broadway musicals seems counterproductive for all concerned.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.