Note: This column is the latest in the series “Surviving Shutdown,” examining the effect of COVID-19 on the Las Vegas entertainment industry.
This mime is money. He’s a mime for our time.
We speak of Hanoch Rosènn, the Israeli stage performer-turned-producer. With nearly all of Las Vegas’ theaters remaining dark, live entertainment on its lingering pandemic hiatus, Rosènn has the answer. His “Extravaganza — The Las Vegas Spectacular” at Bally’s provides a hint of Las Vegas Strip variety shows, past and present.
Sure, the full-scale production is performing to audiences of 50 at the giant Jubilee Theater. Yes, the entire crowd could arrive on the same shuttle. But it doesn’t matter to this masked entertainment troupe.
“Extravaganza,” the star-crossed variety show that opened and closed within hours March 14, represents the lone traditional theater production running in Vegas.
The night show reopened, on Nov. 23, nearly every other show in the Entertainment Capital of the World was closed. But happy to carry the load on its own, “Extravaganza” nobly provides an outside-in view of Las Vegas stage shows. Rosènn himself seized the spotlight himself on re-opening night.
“This is so exciting for us to come back to the theater. Extravaganza has had one show, already, This is the second show!” the producer out. “The cast behind this curtain is excited to be here to perform, this is what they know, this is what they do so well, we hope the show will continue because shows are the soul of Las Vegas.”
The crowd cheered, especially one gent in a Caesars Entertainment mask, entertainment exec Damian Costa. His family worked on “Jubilee,” in its heyday in that very same theater.
In Rosènn’s hands, this Vegas “Extravaganza” features Frank Sinatra and Elvis, depicted by impressionists and also as projected images. Marilyn Monroe is in the show, too, though the most recent Marilyn-themed show on the Strip fizzled 16 days after opening. There is a full-scale “Casino” music number.
Another segment is a jubilant celebration of 1950s-fashioned diners. Motorcycles zoom inside a the Globe of Death, an act that revved up such shows as “Splash” in another era on the Strip.
A familiar couple from the show’s sister Rio production, “Wow,” play to the grateful 50. Victor Ponce, as emcee and also the plate-spinning chef, and crossbow star Silvia Silvia have moved from the Rio to Bally’s. I must confess to an odd fascination of the suspense of spinning plates (not to mention a chef in a fat suit).
Silvia Silvia, too, has mastered the tension by hitting a single bull’s eye to trip seven targets, with a final arrow piercing an apple on her head. That act was the show-closer at the Rio. A hand puppeteer, his figures in silhouette on the vast stage, slows the show’s pace.
We have an homage to showgirls, too, in the showroom where the last of the topless, feathered revues was performed. And if you miss skating duos on circular stages, “Extravaganza” offers that, too.
We do wonder how this is all financed, with a cast of 32 international artists playing to an audience of 50. Rosènn has practically willed the show to the stage.
“We had a phone conversation with the investors, and persuaded them, during these times, don’t think about the money,” Rosènn says. “We will make a profit eventually. There are times not make money, but to invest in order to do something.”
Caesars Entertainment is helping defray some of the theater’s rent costs and is partnering on the show’s marketing. But this is primarily an effort by Rosènn and his backers. The group knows how to keep shows in play. “Wow” is still alive and expected to come back to the Rio, having notched 1,000 shows last December. A “Wow” show has also run during COVID, intermittently, at Isrotel Royal’s Garden Theater in Eilat, Israel.
Rosènn isn’t a fan of intermittent. He favors consistent.
“We had rehearsals with the team, with the cast, and worked for several days to get back onstage,” he says. “We had a momentum there, so we wanted to keep it.”
The show is upped its schedule to two performances per day, at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (dark Wednesday). So, it’s 100 sold per night and 600 per week, running in the red, for now.
“We will cover some, but not all, of our costs,” Rosènn says. “It’s part of our investment, and we can do it for three weeks until hopefully the (audience) numbers can come back up to 250, where we are fine.”
But the producer is insistent on keeping the show at a large scale.
“We don’t want to cut the show down. It’s a big show. It’s a big crew. We will do it, as-is,” Rosènn says. “One big reason for all of this is to give the work to my cast, for their spirit. I couldn’t see them let down again. It would be terrible.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.