Ethan Miller/Getty Images for AEG Live
Tuesday, June 19, 2012 | noon
- Dancing With The Stars
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Richard Halliwell steps back to consider what makes a show work.
In this case, the show in question is all about dancing.
“Is it because there is great dancing?” he says. “Or is it because the people dancing are celebrities?”
Good question. There is an agreement: What makes “Dancing With the Stars: Live in Las Vegas” a hit at Tropicana Theater is the top-notch dancing, which happens to be performed by famous people.
“I don’t know if the dancers were just great dancers if it would work as well,” says Halliwell, commercial director with BBC Worldwide and one of the executive producers of the stage show at the Trop. “I don’t know if the celebs were just celebs and ordinary dancers if it would work as well, either.”
Whatever the case, the show has caught on at the Trop. Announced Monday (and first reported weeks ago by my colleague Robin Leach) was that the production will dance most of the summer away in Las Vegas, holding the stage at the Trop through Aug. 5. That adds four weeks to the production’s original run. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and 2 and 8 p.m. Sundays. The dark day has been moved from Tuesday to Friday. Tickets range from $40 for booths near the back of the room to $144 for VIP seating (go to the Tropicana website for more info).
“We have been nearly filling the showroom regularly,” Halliwell says, and demand for tickets led to the added dates. “We have been really pleased with that support.”
A diverse cast of celebrities has performed ably onstage. Dancers also work the city tirelessly as ambassadors of the show. Even if he performed no dancing, host Carson Kressley can hold an audience just by ... being Carson Kressley. His banter with former 'N Sync member and guy’s guy Joey Fatone gives the show a kitschy comic element that widens its appeal beyond the string of dance numbers.
“We could put a show together with just Carson and Joey,” Halliwell says, chuckling. “We have given that some thought, actually.”
It also helps that the cast has dived energetically into the Las Vegas scene. It is not uncommon to see members of “DWTS” at a performance of “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace or “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas. Guest dancer Cheryl Burke was invited to the recent opening of Mizumi at Wynn Las Vegas (where she shared a table with Steve Wynn). Sabrina Bryan took part in the recent adult review “Free Society” at the Artisan. She was dressed as a burlesque version of Minnie Mouse, as fellow “Dancing” cast members Kressley, Fatone, Lacey Schwimmer and Tia Carrere (whose parents live in Las Vegas) were in the audience at the jammed venue. If there is a red carpet rolled out at a significant event, you can rely upon “DWTS” to be well represented.
But it is not enough for the cast to embark on an aggressive Las Vegas outreach program.
The production has to work, and this one does. The show’s dance numbers are tightly choreographed segments that move swiftly in an 80-minute performance. Obviously, the dance segments are genuine (as there is no such thing as dance-synching). And, unlike some productions that feature otherworldly acts of acrobatics or illusion, the dancing in the show is an art form that inspires still more dancing (and the position of Ambhar Lounge at the foot of the stairs leading to the theater is ideal). Rare is it that you watch a Cirque du Soleil show and are compelled to spring high above the ground from a bungee cord, and it isn’t often that, upon seeing “Absinthe,” you run off to balance yourself high atop a half-dozen metal chairs.
But after “Dancing,” you do feel like dancing. At what degree, of course, is in the hands (and feet) of the beholder.
“Dancing is something anyone can do,” Halliwell says. “I think that, too, is one of the reasons the show has done so well.”
The show is staged in the regal showroom that was once Tiffany Theater, for decades the home of “Folies Bergere.” The theater lends itself to a splashy production show. Tropicana Theater maintains something unattainable in newer Strip showrooms — genuine nostalgia. It is one of the few throwback Vegas venues that provides ample table and booth seating.
“The venue is ideal for what we put on stage,” Halliwell says during a phone conversation from London, where he has split time since “DWTS” opened at the Trop in April. “There is a lot of space onstage, and that helps a great deal when you are producing big dance numbers.”
Halliwell says there is no plan to greatly adjust or edit the show. It owns a high measure of name recognition from its hit status on primetime TV (ABC, specifically). Each cast member has a niche following. As long as the cast can stay in dancing shape (and that is something Fatone, especially, has made a priority), the show just boogies on.
Asked whether the show could go on past Aug. 5, Halliwell says, “There is. It’s just a matter of what else might be planned for the theater. But if there is demand, absolutely, we could continue it.”
So it might be a dance marathon at the Trop, where for much of the summer you can dance the night away.