Broadway To Vegas


Copyright: April 26, 1999
By: Laura Deni


It's not even June, but promoters are busting out all over with plans for new venues.

Behaving as though they've thought about it and have their act together is the Jerry Colangelo headed group of investors who want to build a $30 million, 5,000-seat performing-arts venue in downtown Phoenix. A story in a London newspaper, The Telegraph, that i>The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by British actor Roger Rees (Nicholas Nickeby) - it runs Sept. 4-Oct. 9. Also upcoming is Thunder Knocking On The Door,a bluesy musical fable, July 10-Aug. 14; Cymbeline, July 31-Sept. 4; Missing Footage, a comedy by Gen Le Roy, July 24-Sept. 4; and The Hostage, an Irish comedy by Brendan Behan is going to build a theatre complex in Las Vegas, may be more of a run it up the flag pole and see who salutes foray.

The Phoenix venue has been a long time coming, well thought out project that fills a void between currently existing arena sizes. The American West Arena holds 16,000-19,000, while the Gammage Auditorium hold 3,000 and the Phoenix Symphony Hall has a 2,600 capacity.

Billboard magazine ran an Arizona Special in 1983. I flew to Phoenix to write that special. The concerns about venue growth that were expressed in l983 were the building blocks for the Phoenix entertainment scene of today.

"People think Phoenix is old people, it's not," said David Lon, the theatrical producer who gave John Savage and Robert Ulrich their first jobs. He put Caesar and Coca together on stage for the first time since Show of Shows. He was part of the theatrical group NOW Entertainment, Inc. that purchased the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix. "You have two affluent areas Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. Those residents are over 50, play tennis and go to dinner. The other older audience is Sun City. That's retired Midwest tool and dye makers. The Sundome does shows for them. Why should I bus them in for Liberace?" Lon told me in my 1983 interview.

"The median age for the rest of Phoenix is 31," he continued. "Think where that audience was 10 years ago when concerts were at their peak? There's a rock audience here all the time."

"Phoenix is like L.A. You have every hustler in the country. I get 10 calls a day from promoters. The minute I ask for a cashier's check, I don't hear from them any more."

Today, Phoenix is still a diverse crowd that wants entertainment and has the money to buy the tickets. The Colangelo project would hope to attract touring Broadway musicals as well as music concerts and performers, such as a Jerry Seinfeld.

The Arizona Republic reported that the new theater venture "would be a godsend for popular music concerts and for individual acts such as Jerry Seinfeld, who refuse to play the larger venues.

In Las Vegas we have a proliferation of new mega hotels all promoting showrooms, theaters, and conventions centers capable of being transformed into entertainment venues. Within a 12 month period of time new entertainment hotspots will include those at the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Venetian, Paris, a new Riviera Hotel convention center, and the House of Blues inside Mandalay Bay. Recently Caesars Palace conducted a survey to see if building their own entertainment venue would be viable. Caesars Palace currently brings some of its concerts to the Thomas and Mack Center.

Steve Wynn teamed with entertainment manager Sandy Gallin who inked a seven year deal as chief executive officer of Mirage Entertainment and Sports, Inc. The two announced they would like to bring more legitimate theater to Las Vegas. Tossed out as a possibility was an 18,000 seat arena, to be constructed behind the Mirage Hotel. Wynn and Gallin know the Vegas territory, whereas Webber does not.


Recently I sat in a movie theater and enjoyed You've Got Mail, and Patch Adams paying fifty cents each for my movie tickets.

The Paradise Dollar Theater in Las Vegas charges one buck for all movies, except on Tuesdays when the price drops to fifty cents per ticket. The cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show is every Saturday at midnight with limited seating. At the time of my movie marathon Saving Private Ryan, Stepmom, Message In a Bottle, and four other flicks were showing.

We at Broadway To Vegas are curious - We think paying fifty cents to see a good movie is a fantastic bargain. Las Vegas may have the best movie deal in the nation. If you know of an equal or better movie value in your community, we'd like to know about it.

E-mail us with verifiable information; the movie theater name, location, phone number, price of tickets, types of movies shown and any other pertinent info that you think makes your area theater an entertainment bargain. If we find any that equal or top the Las Vegas fifty cent movie, we'll pass along the information.


Norman Lear
The National Association of Broadcasters staging their annual convention in Las Vegas, inducted All In The Family into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Norman Lear, creator of the ground breaking series was present as were two of the show's stars, Rob Reiner, who played conservative-baiting liberal Mike Stivic and Sally Struthers, who played Stivic's wife, Gloria. Carroll O'Connor who was the racist Archie Bunker and Jean Stapleton, his "dingbat" wife, Edith, weren't able to attend Monday's ceremonies

Reiner addressed the gathering, terming the series "the single best show ever on television, without question. It simply married reality, issues of the day and humor in a mix that has never been seen before and has never been seen since."

In accepting the award Lear, referring to Reiner and Struthers, said; "The fact that these two people existed and Carroll and Jean existed, and the fact that their talents all meshed the way they did in some kind of miraculous chemistry - only happens rarely. You have to assume the stars were aligned and the fates were right. No one individual can take credit for it."

On Thursday, the late Wolfman Jack was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.

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Thank you for your interest. Laura Deni P.O. Box 60538 Las Vegas, NV 89160


The MGM Grand Hotel has confirmed that they are in negotiations to bring Barbra Streisand into the facility for a Millennium show. Gossip of such an engagement was first reported ages ago by The New York Post.
In confirming the long whispered rumors, the hotel stated that the ticket price would be $ 1 million. However, that does include having dinner with Streisand.

Streisand made her Las Vegas debut in 1963 at the Riviera Hotel. She'd recently concluded her first starring role on Broadway in David Merrick's I Can Get It For You Wholesale. In 1964 she returned to Broadway in Funny Girl. Her rendition of People catapulted her into superstardom. On July 2, 1969 Streisand returned to Las Vegas as the International Hotel's (now the Hilton) opening act. Streisand was so famous that she needed only her first name on the marquee. Next to the major hotel billboard was a smaller marquee proclaiming "Coming Soon Las Vegas First Legitimate Theatre."

When The International Hotel opened, Kirk Kerkorian was the owner. In 1970 he sold his interest in that property to devote his money and energy into building the MGM Grand Hotel. It was Streisand who was the first star in the MGM Grand Garden Arena. President Clinton's mother attended in a wheelchair. It is Streisand's decades long friendship with Kerkorian that made the million dollar millennium deal possible.


The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, one of this country's premier cultural events is in full swing. The 30th annual event drew over 10,000 musicians and artists to the Fair Grounds Race Track. Bands are performing on 12 stages for seven days. Attendance is expected to top 500,000 before the festival ends on May 2.

Performers selected must reflect some aspect of New Orleans or Louisiana culture. Musicians performing include; Hootie and the Blowfish performing May 1, Santana, Widespread Panic, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers playing classic jazz, Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Chas, Ellis Marsalis and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Dr. John, Ray Charles and Fats Domino will be together for the first time. Fred Hammond and the Radicals for Christ will perform in the Gospel Tent.

This non-profit event costs $ 1 million per day to stage.

Down the road apiece the Summer Music Festival in Biloxi, Miss runs May through October. The Tricentennial Jazz Band Festival is May 17-18. All part of the year long celebration to celebrate the French landing on the Biloxi shores 300 years ago.The festivities end with the Tricentennial Commission's New Millennium New Year's Eve Extravaganza.


More than 300,000 Latin music lovers yesterday attended the 10th anniversary AT&T Fiesta Broadway celebration in Los Angeles. A two hour Telemundo special of the event will air on Cinco de Mayo - May 5 - in 48 markets, including Puerto Rico. The Radio Unica network aired the event in 52 U.S. cities.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexico's defeat of the French army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Two-time Grammy winner LaMafia chose the event for its final Los Angeles performance. Chris Perez, widower of Selena, used Fiesta Broadway to introduce his new rock group, the Chris Perez Band. Gipsyland, a new band created by Kiko, lead singer of the Gypsy Kings made their debut.

Other performers included; Nydia Rojas, Paulina Rubio, Fey, Pablo Montero, Ana Barbara and the bands Mariachi Solde American, and Ilegales.


Dame Edna
The zany Dame Edna Everage, whose innovative television presentations have been copied but never equaled, is bringing her wisteria hair and unleashed wit to the Broadway stage. She's been preparing for this debut way, way, way off-Broadway - in San Francisco, at the Theatre on the Square.

Dame Edna: The Royal Tour will begin on September 15 at the Booth Theatre, with a glamorous opening, befitting a Dame, slated for October 17. Scenic design by Kenneth Foy, with costume design by Stephen Adnitt, lighting design by Jason Kantrowitz, sound design by Peter Fitzgerald.

Dame Edna is billboarded as a "housewife, megastar, social anthropologist, investigative journalist, chanteuse, swami, adviser to British royalty, grief counselor, spin doctor, children's book illustrator and icon. They left out irrepressible hoot.



the Red Cross line set up to help Bosnia War Relief will get some blue blooded help on May 3 at the Kit Kat Klub.

Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia will be there.

So will Blane Trump, Pat Kennedy Lawford, movie maker Stan Dragoti, HBO bigshot Colin Callender, and his wife Elizabeth Gaine, David Hasselhoff and Lion King star Jason Raize, among numerous other movers and shakers, who intend to make waves in helping the war relief effort.

SPIRIT OF ACHIEVEMENT AWARDS May 3, presented by the National Women's Division of Albert Einstein Medicine's 45 annual event honors Penny Marshall, Lesley Stahl, Meryl Streep, Lilly Tartikoff and Julie Taymor.


TOM HANKS being honored April 29 at the American Museum of the Moving Image gala at the Waldorf Astoria. Participants include: Jonathan Demme, Nora Ephron, Sally Field, Ron Howard, Peter Scolari and Steven Spielberg.

STEPHEN BALDWIN AND LAURENCE FISHBURNE slated to be honored by the Los Angeles Shanti Organization for their efforts in battling AIDS.


STEVE WYNN has jumped into the buyer's ring, hoping to add Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the parent company of Caesars Palace, to his publicly traded Mirage Resorts, Inc. Empire.

SHELDON ADELSON developer of the new Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, promising that the 3,036 hotel will be ready for a "soft" opening May 3. The original grand opening date of April 14 has twice been pushed back.

PETULA CLARK who starred onBroadway in Blood Brothers, currently starring in the national tour of Sunset Blvd opens May 5 at the Saenger Theatre New Orleans, then takes the production to the Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA May 18-23.

RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN currently in Broadway starring in The Sound of Music is going to head up the national tour of that production. They open September 14 Theater of the Stars, Atlanta, GA.

REUNION A Civil War Musical Epic in Miniature in NYC, has footnotes crediting 19 composers and lyricists plus letters and wartime accounts from 78 politicians, soldiers, reporters and average citizens. Book by Jack Kyrieleison; story by Kyrieleison and Ron Holgate, who also directs.

FIDDLER ON THE ROOF winner of 8 Tony Awards opens May 4 at the Paramount Theatre, Austin, Texas for a two week run.

in San Diego has announced its Festival 99 season, which encompasses three stages and kicks off in July, running through October.

One of the highlights is an outdoor production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by British actor Roger Rees (Nicholas Nickeby) - it runs Sept 4-Oct 9. Also upcoming is Thunder Knocking On The Door,a bluesy musical fable, July 10-Aug 14; Cymbeline, July 31-Sept 4; Missing Footage, a comedy by Gen Le Roy, July 24-Sept 4; and The Hostage, an Irish comedy by Brendan Behan, Sept 25-Oct 30.

John Goodman has been cast in the lead role. This will be a return engagement for the former star of Rosanne. Goodman captured rave reviews and audience approval for his role as Falstaff in the 1995 production of Henry IV.

GODSPELL opened last Friday at the Dundee Dinner Theatre, Omaha, NE. The 1977 Broadway hit is being co-directed by Brandon Higdem and Omaha Community Playhouse choreographer Roxanne Nielsen. They have "updated it to the 90s, by getting rid of the hippy costumes from the 70s." Production runs through May 29.


NANCY SINATRA stars in Carnaby Street Cave Stomp at Bimbo's 365 Club in San Francisco, May 1. Sharing the bill with Frank's daughter are Herb and Bardot A Go-Go.

LINDA EDER who originated the role of Lucy in Broadway's Jekyll & Hyde,and is married to the show's composer Frank Wildhorn, performs May 8 at the Wilshire Theatre, Los Angeles. Eder was set to star in her husband's latest theatrical production The Civil War which opened in New York last week at the St. James Theatre. A few months ago Eder suddenly pulled out of The Civil War with Wildhorn telling people he had "a better production for her." That production, currently under production, is their first baby.

SARAH BRIGHTMAN in concert, one night only, June 6, Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles.

JULIEN CLERC that sexy, French singing sensation, debutes in North American May 1 John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, Los Angeles, then heads to New York for a sold out May 3-4 gig at the Florence Gould Hall.

FROG & PEACH THEATRE COMPANY conclude their fourth season of presenting free Shakespeare at The Theatre at the West-Park Church, NYC with The Merchant of Venice, directed by Lynnea Benson. Performances through May 9.

PRIME TIME COUNTRY that popular TNN program, returns to tape at the Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas May 3-8. It's the fourth visit for the show, which is hosted by Gary Chapman. Confirmed guests include; Tim McGraw, the Dixie Chicks, Jo Dee Messina, Sherrie Austin and Mark Wills. "We are shootin' to outdo Elvis' record of 837 performances at the Las Vegas Hilton," quipped Chapman. "After this trip to Vegas, we only have about 775 more shows to go."


TERRENCE MCNALLY'S recent lecture at the Denver Center is still being discussed. It seems the playwright's highly touted appearance resulted in all 700 seats being reserved. However, only 500 showed up. Officials are irked at the 200 rude people who didn't call to cancel their seats, since there was a waiting list for tickets to the free event. The empty seats have so peeved the organizers that future free events are being "re-evaluated" by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

SANDY DUNCAN took "break a leg" too literally and broke her foot during rehearsals. That scotched her stepping into the role of Roxie Hart in the Boston production of Chicago last Thursday. Ann Reinking jumped in. She already knew the part, having originally starred in and choreographed the revival of Chicago, which opened in New York November, 1996. Duncan hopes to rejoin the production when her injury heals.

RHAPSODY ALA LIBERACE Steinway & Sons has created a $150,000 "Rhapsody" piano - midnight blue glossy finish embedded with mother-of-pearl stars - to honor the centenary of George Gershwin. Pianist Marcus Roberts performed Rhapsody in Blue on it with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Puns and pithy comments about the piano followed. The best overheard comment was reported in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "The finest thumbnail description came from ASO artistic administrator J. Frank Dans, who said: "The perfect thing to play on it would be Le Tombeau de Liberace." Yes, that's a real piece, by camp composer Michael Daughtery, who has written symphonies on such pop culture icons as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, as well as a mock homage to J. Edgar Hoover."

LIBERACE'S PARTY MANSION In Las Vegas, the Clark County Commission voted to continue allowing Liberace's mansion to be used as a catering hall. Actually, the late showman converted two small tract homes into one unique, two story, half-acre dwelling, complete with a replica of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the bedroom.Known as the Las Vegas Villa, since it became an entertainment facility in 1990, Liberace's former abode has been host to functions for Time Magazine, General Electric, Sony Corp, and IBM.

COUNTRY THUNDER USA starring Reba McEntire and Faith Hill April 29-May 2 at Schnepf Farms, Phoenix. Over 100,000 are expected.

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Next Column: May 3, 1999
Copyright: April 26, 1999. All Rights Reserved. Reviews, Interviews, Commentary, Photographs and all Graphics from any Broadway To Vegas (TM) columns may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, utilized as leads, or used in any manner without permission, compensation and/or credit.
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Laura Deni

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