Updated August 1, 2022 - 1:09 pm
Ross Mollison consistently refers to “Opium” as a hit show. But he is ordering revamp of the show to make it … hit-ier, I guess.
The interplanetary farce at the Cosmopolitan is pulling into garage for an overhaul. Celebrated writer/director Cal McCrystal is the lead mechanic. This is his latest Spiegelworld vehicle, following “Atomic Saloon Show” at Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian.
“Opium” is introducing several new acts, lead among them the skating tandem of Billy and Emily England. The brother-sister team is rolling over from the company’s flagship, “Absinthe,” at Caesars Palace.
Changes abound. Asher Treleaven, who expertly portrayed played the lead role (and show’s primary ambassador) Captain Kunton, has already left the show. Brett Loudermilk, brilliant as sword-swallowing Rear Admiral Todd, is also gone.
Co-hosts will be Brett Alters’ crewmen Chip, and Grace Lusk’s Lt. Harriet are the new co-hosting tandem. The new version of “Opium” is being developed even as the current is still performing. Mollison says the updated production will be ready within a couple weeks.
Outside of overseeing the show’s artistic renovation, Mollison says he needs the show to grow as a more seamless complement to Superfrico. The restaurant is a hit, too. Among the plans is to present more acts on the restaurant side, at the the tail end of the Opium theater, where the stage rotates toward the dining room.
It’s a somewhat delicate balance, but Spiegelworld is used to the acrobatics. Some highlights from a recent catch-up with Mollison:
The “Opium” cast changes were Mollison’s call: “They’ve done their tour of duty. Those characters need a break. Rear Admiral Todd is a beloved character. Captain Kunton is one of the greats. I just think that was a decision that had to be taken to refresh the show. If you don’t change the show at the right time, your audiences decline and you don’t move forward. Maybe I’ve made a mistake (chuckles). It’s hard to tell, but ultimately it’s on me. I make that decision. I love them both.”
It is not likely that Superfrico will become a stand-alone restaurant: The restaurant is booming, outpacing the original stage show. But don’t count on the restaurant operating on its own. The possibility has been tossed around those familiar with the company. “That doesn’t really make financial or creative sense right now,” Mollison said. “What we have is a hit show next to a hit restaurant created by one company. That is really, really difficult to achieve. A hit show is difficult to achieve. A hit restaurant is difficult to achieve. They kind of lean on each other, to create something that is globally unique.”
Mollison has not seen “Mad Apple,” but is eager to: The producer made a play for the Zumanity Theater at New York-New York before Cirque began development of “Mad Apple,” the theater’s current production. “I keep hearing that it’s an ‘Absinthe’ knock-off, but I’m also hearing that the new show at the Wynn is an ‘Absinthe’ knock-off, without the comedy, and I’m flattered by that,” Mollison said. “But you know, I am thrilled that a show is going into the Zumanity space. It is the best, most beautiful theater in Las Vegas. ‘Mad Apple’ is a Cirque production solely, so for them to have the guts to come out, rent the theater and put a show in there — that is a statement, a testament to their belief in their brand, which is fantastic.”
The producer remains bullish on production shows: Mollison recently visited the Spiegelworld production planned for Caesars in Atlantic City and was encouraged by the construction progress, “We’re taking a space currently designed for gambling and building a theater,” Mollison said. “What better testament could you get from the management of Caesars Entertainment that they are committed to entertainment? Wynn didn’t bulldoze the Le Reve Theater for convention space … That’s what’s great about what Cirque’s doing, at New York-New York and also with ‘America’s Got Talent’ at the Luxor. They had a tough go with the ‘R.U.N’ show but they turn around and produce ‘AGT Live’ in the same theater. Fantastic. That’s great.”
The Gazillionaire is still the company’s overlord: “I’ve known the Gaz since he was a baby. I’m humbled to work for him,” Mollison said. “I’ve learned how to make a boatload of money and still be extremely cheap. I just saw ‘Absinthe’ the other night, the early show. I’m so proud of what we’ve done with that show. It’s just continued to develop, so creative, so much hard work. We had a special portrait of Gaz put in at Superfrico. It’s in a private place, right near my booth.”
Cool Hang Alert
CHA Hall of Famers Santa Fe & The Fat City Horns are back with verve — verve, I tell you! — to the Copa Room at Bootlegger Bistro. The show is 7:30 p.m. Monday. The band was off, a rarity, last week after some snags in drapes and cables installation (Cables Installation, great band name). The $30 cover comes with one drink, and $50 VIP seating comes with two drinks. Go to santafeandthefatcityhorns.com to learn of The Healing.
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.