Bruno or Bieber? Oh the decisions when you run ‘Legends in Concert’

Vegas Voices is a weekly question-and-answer series featuring notable Las Vegans.

As a boy, Brian Brigner had a dream. Surprisingly, that dream was to race Indy cars, not oversee a small army of Elvis impersonators.

Before he was chief operating officer for the company that produces “Legends in Concert,” Brigner lived and breathed race cars. Growing up in Dublin, Ohio, he listened to the open-wheel races “on a big Zenith radio that got really hot the longer it was turned on. I would sit on the floor and write down the order (of the cars).”

After studying sports marketing, the Ohio State University business grad went on to work promotions for a team that won the Indianapolis 500. “To be standing on those bricks as part of an organization that won that race was quite a dream come true for me,” he says.

That itch scratched, Brigner promoted country artists and touring Broadway productions and then, 15 years ago, joined Onstage Entertainment: first as a regional vice president for “Legends” productions in Branson, Mo., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., before taking over the whole operation eight years ago (when Jeff Victor, until very recently the head of the Fremont Street Experience, left to take that job).

“Legends” opened in 1983 and is now the second-oldest show in Las Vegas. Depending on the time of year and number of cruise ships on the open seas, it can have as many as 10 productions running at once. We caught up to Brigner as the Flamingo edition was decorating for its annual holiday edition, in which each celebrity impersonator adds a Chrismas song. The holiday show starts Monday and runs through Christmas Eve.

Review-Journal: They always say the best jobs are the ones you didn’t know existed. So I doubt you went to college saying you would some day be in charge of Elvis and Madonna tribute acts?

Brigner: Never in a hundred years. Though when I was born, Elvis was becoming pretty prominent and I was born with very dark hair and prominent sideburns. Ironically, they were calling me Elvis in the hospital when I was born. Little did they know, all these years later, I would be working with Elvis every day of my life.

R-J: You joined Onstage when “Legends” was kind of at a transitional low point, after some moves that resulted in the ouster of its original Las Vegas producer, John Stuart, a guy who was more from a performing background.

Brigner: They had gone public and things didn’t play out the way they hoped. The company was in real trouble for a while. I think the three guys that came in, none of us were theater guys or performers. I think at the end of the day, you need to have the creative types and the folks who have been on the deck, as I call it, and have that passion and drive. …

But I joke all the time, “The creative team can’t have the checkbook.” That’s been one of my lines since day one and it’s the truth.

R-J: The company seems to be thriving now in the face of having created a monster. How does “Legends” retain its brand dominance in the face of tributes in every locals casino, and the long-form tributes, where if you like the Stones you can see a whole tribute to just them without sitting through ones you don’t.

Brigner: I think we’ve done a couple of things. We’ve branched into into other areas where we think we have some expertise, like the “Elvis Lives” tour in conjunction with Graceland. We really feel like we do Elvis as well as anybody, and Graceland is trusting us to carry on with the legacy of Elvis Presley. We’re doing an Olivia Newton-John look-alike search with her participation. If you get the right star they’re very flattered by what we do and how well we do it and how well we portray them. …

And our repeat business with “Legends in Concert” is the highest of any show I’ve ever worked with. … We change the lineup four times a year. People always ask, “Who’s coming into the show next?” In January we’re bringing in Prince and Adele. I think that’s why it’s been able to stand the test of time for 32 years here.

R-J: Since you mentioned Adele, is it all intuitive, or is there a formula to figure out when to add a new tribute to “Legends”? You don’t want older audiences going, “Who’s that?” But if you wait too long, it’s like you’re not keeping up with pop music.

Brigner: We really focus every lineup on having something that appeals to lots of different age groups in the same room … . The Flamingo likes to have a current, relevent pop act in our lineup. They also like classic, legendary folks in the lineup, like right now, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

As far as, “When do we build it?” and “When do we decide?” I think part of it is if we think they’re going to have long-term staying power and legs. The one thing we don’t want to do is spend a lot of money producing an act we think is going to be a one-album wonder. We have a lot of meetings about it, and everybody has to have a buy-in and think this is the right thing to do.

R-J: So, break down (Justin) Bieber versus Bruno (Mars). Which would you go with? When someone like Justin Bieber becomes more known as a celebrity joke than for his music, does that make you back off?

Brigner: It would definitely be Bruno. In fact, we’ve auditioned a couple. Because we’re in a lot of family destinations, not just in Vegas … we can’t put a controversial figure in those markets. If we can’t utilize people system-wide we’re just not going to build them. We do take into account what’s going on in their public life? Is it someone who’s in the media for the right reasons as opposed to the wrong?

The one thing we’ve also got to do is make sure we can deliver a quality act. Same thing with Beyonce. We’ve auditioned a bunch, but that character is kind of like Michael — you’ve got to not only be able to look it and sing it, you’ve got to be able to dance. Those triple-threat characters are hard to come by. We’ve had a lot of people come in with two out of three, but we’re not Meat Loaf.

You can’t have a Bruno who doesn’t play drums. You can’t have a Springsteen who doesn’t play guitar.

— Read more from Mike Weatherford at Contact him at anf follow @MikeWeatherford on Twitter.

Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Las Vegas residency
Artist Joshua Vides created a "White Wedding" chapel for Billy Idol's Vegas residency (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas
Try the Burning History cocktail at Zuma In Las Vegas (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like