The entertainment capital of the world is back with numerous shows and engagements for every type of traveler. From family-friendly options to the more risqué residencies the city is known for, Las Vegas continues to entertain crowds of all ages in new (and safe) ways.
Before bringing back entertainment, production companies on and off the Strip were tasked with implementing CDC guidelines to ensure audiences' and performers’ safety. In a city where the performers frequently interact closely with audience members, this wasn’t an easy task.
I talked with Matthew Fardell, the Corporate Company Manager for Thunder From Down Under, about some of the new safety features and the guest experience to get an idea of what a showroom is like post-lockdown. “There are the obvious safety measures such as social distancing, the mask mandate, and thorough cleaning of the entire showroom before and after each show.” He explained when asked about the new safety measures. “We have also added in sanitizer stations throughout the showroom as well as stations that offer free, disposable masks in case any of our guests require a replacement. All of these safety elements extend to the side of the stage as well as backstage. Additionally, all of the showroom staff and performers are temperature tested nightly. The performers and the Excalibur showroom staff alike are doing an amazing job of strictly adhering to all safety elements that have been put in place.” Thunder From Down Under currently performs six nights a week in their dedicated showroom at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino.
Anita Mann, Emmy-winning choreographer, and producer of FANTASY, is taking extra measures to ensure her cast remains safe, “We ensure that the cast is mindful of avoiding high-risk activities in order to protect others in the show. Additionally, the performers are seated six feet apart in the dressing room with plexiglass dividers to add an extra layer of protection.” Mariah Rivera, dancer and associate producer of FANTASY, added, “We have internally adapted to safety protocols through weekly, mandatory COVID-19 tests, wearing masks while performing and modifying our choreography to remain six feet apart from each other at all times.”
Hanoch Rosenn, the creator of EXTRAVAGANZA- The Vegas Spectacular at Bally’s Las Vegas, has echoed a similar sentiment. “We are very vigilant about following the safety guidelines to keep our cast, crew, and audience safe. Every cast member at “Extravaganza” gets tested for COVID every week. In addition to Caesars and our amazing team at Bally’s sanitizing the seats and theatre, our costumes are sanitized multiple times during the show and, all cast members perform with masks.” Rosenn is optimistic about the slowly expanding capacity levels, “For almost three months we did the show for an audience of 50, so we had 50 people on stage with the crew and everybody, and 50 in the audience. And I am happy we did it because now we are able to perform for 250 people per show! We wanted to not only keep our cast and crew employed but, we wanted to send a message that Las Vegas can get through this pandemic, and we did what we could to entertain anyone who stepped into the Jubilee Theatre.”
Quality Over Quantity
In a city that typically consists of packed showrooms and audience participation, potential audience members may have quality concerns since social distancing measures are still very much in place. While visitors may be apprehensive about show formats and social distancing, the dedication the performers bring back to the stage ensures that audiences are just as entertained. “The experience is different to a traditional, pre-COVID show; however, we have found that our guests are equally entertained with our show in the current format,” Fardell told me. “Before Thunder returned, we spent almost two weeks in the studio reworking the show to make sure that the quality of the show was not compromised in any way.”
For some, the long pause from last March has provided new opportunities. In a recent press release, Mat Franco expressed enthusiasm for the new format of his show Magic Reinvented Nightly which reopens at The Linq Hotel + Experience on April 29th. “The new production of MAGIC REINVENTED NIGHTLY is the slickest and modern adaptation to date!” said Franco. “I’m super stoked about the new scenic elements, lighting design, and magic! Most importantly, I want the heart and soul of the show to emanate from the unrepeatable rapport that is developed with each and every audience.”
Reopened Shows & What’s to Come
MGM Resorts Entertainment
As Las Vegas continues to reopen slowly, shows around the Strip are updated and emerging as well. MGM Resorts announced opening dates for numerous shows in the past couple of months, including Carrot Top, Terry Fator: Who’s the Dummy Now?, and David Copperfield. The fan-favorite Jabbawockeez have also returned with a new show, TIMELESS at MGM Grand Las Vegas. The show will be performed five nights a week.
Reopened shows at Caesars Entertainment properties include Tape Face, Piff the Magic Dragon, X-Burlesque, and X-Country. The wildly popular adult variety show, Absinthe, has also reopened at the Spiegeltent located at Caesars Palace. Absinthe performs two shows a night, five nights a week. The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino will be expanding its days of operation later this month, and with that expansion, Penn & Teller will reopen on April 22nd.
Limited Engagements at the Cosmopolitan
In addition to the returning residencies, limited engagement shows are beginning to schedule in Las Vegas. The Cosmopolitan recently announced a four-show run with Billy Idol at The Chelsea. In a recent press release, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Vice President of Entertainment, Fedor Banuchi hinted at more great shows to come. “As Las Vegas continues to rebound, we look forward to releasing details on new and exciting live concerts and events coming this summer to the resort.”
The Future of Entertainment in Las Vegas
So what is the future of entertainment in Las Vegas as the city continues to emerge from a global pandemic? Surely the opening of more favorites on and off the Strip (numerous shows have yet to announce reopening dates as of press time). Rosenn has a positive outlook, “Now we have the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s exciting to see other shows returning to the stage. After all, Las Vegas has such a tremendous entertainment community, and we all have to look out for each other and the future of live entertainment in this amazing city.”
Mann and Rivera also expressed excitement and optimism for the future of the industry, “I’m elated that Vegas entertainment has returned, and will bring back the excitement and energy the city has been craving for the past year. As we’re working towards normalcy, I’m confident that shows are here to stay. For many, seeing a live performance on the Strip is such a special experience, unlike any other. Our cast is dedicated and eager to continue performing in a safe environment to keep the thrill of Vegas alive,” Mann told me. Rivera added, “I’m incredibly optimistic about the future of Vegas entertainment. As a performer, I can see how thrilled audiences are to experience live performances again. In time, the entertainment industry will return to normal, but as of now, Vegas shows are taking every precaution to return safely.”
Fardell is optimistic as well in a broad view, “I would dearly love to see entertainment in Las Vegas back to normal. Zooming out from just entertainment in Las Vegas, that would mean that the world would be a healthier and happier place. Family and friends could gather again and get back to enjoying the most important things in life, including spending time with loved ones.”