The Playgoer: Vegas Update

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Vegas Update

A must-read for all Vegas-watchers by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Christopher Rawson.

On the one-hand Vegas seems now the more natural place for the slick-spectacular form of live entertainment, out-Broadwaying Broadway.

That's the genius of the New Vegas. No matter what its roots in crass hucksterism and the Bugsy Siegel mob, it has generated fortunes, both individual and corporate, that are willing to take chances on entertainment, even when it calls itself art. As Chris Jones said a few years back in a seminal Chicago Tribune article heralding Vegas as the successor to Broadway, these moneymen have the virtue of their defect. Once they decide to hire a creative force like Cirque (not that much is like Cirque), they pony up whatever's needed and get out of the way.

That's unlike Broadway, where the producers consider themselves collaborators, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. They fight to keep investments modest, by Vegas standards.

On the other hand, the very word "Broadway" itself has turned out to be a kiss of death for some shows, he argues:

It may well be that, while Broadway can generate shows that (repackaged) succeed in Vegas, the Broadway brand is itself a mixed blessing. In the real world I live in, "Broadway" often relates to serious theater as glitz does to substance. But Vegas is already glitz. So there, "Broadway" carries intimations of elitism. After all, the crowds that flood to Vegas are mainly people who don't watch the Tony Awards. What does Broadway mean to them, other than that old city at the other end of the continent?

This gets at what makes Broadway so sad these days. They can't even compete in the boffo department.

1 comment:

Tom said...

The trouble with Vegas vis a vis NY theatre is that Vegas is all circuses and no bread. Either it's a glitzy living magazine like Cirque that says absolutely nothing but "fire hot, tree pretty," or it's seventy-minute "tab" versions of established shows (or shows stuck in venues that don't suit them), all so people can get back on their feet and gamble. Nothing wrong with that. Just don't call it a cultural sea change.