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October 23, 2014

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‘Spider-Man’ is out, but something is brewing at Wynn/Encore

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Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Spider-Man appears during the musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” at Foxwoods Theater in New York on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

Philip William McKinley’s name — all three of them, in fact — certainly surfaces with great frequency at Wynn and Encore Las Vegas.

McKinley has been the director of “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” on Broadway, from 2011 (when he replaced Julie Taymor in the oft-troubled musical) until the production’s closing in January. It was expected and even announced that a version of the stuffed-with-special-effects musical was heading to Las Vegas this year, with the likely venue Encore Theatre.

This feeling was further cemented when McKinley delivered a spectacular production to Wynn Las Vegas in March, an extravaganza starring Hugh Jackman (with a boost from Broadway star Rachel York) and backed by 36 dancers and a 32-piece orchestra. Guests included Quincy Jones and Steven Spielberg. The cost for the show, which was carried out in a “Great Gatsby” 1920s theme, reportedly ballooned to $5 million.

That McKinley and sound man Jonathan Deans, who also worked on “Spider-Man,” was recruited for an event so personally important to Steve Wynn led observers to believe that an announcement of the musical was a mere formality. Not so. Co-producer Michael Cohl said last week that, in place of a resident show in Las Vegas, the musical would tour tour arenas starting in late 2015 or early 2016.

“I think ‘Spider-Man’ is a pop culture show that was meant to be in arenas,” Cohl told the Wall Street Journal in a story published last Friday. (And hey, maybe it’ll play Vegas afterall, in the new MGM Resorts arena between New York-New York and Monte Carlo.)

Spidey’s vault from a planned residency on the Strip to a game of hopscotch across the country seems an unfortunate bit of news for entertainment consumers in Vegas. But also tied to this announcement, at least peripherally, is a show brewing at Wynn and Encore – with McKinley as the director.

Auditions are planned in a couple of weeks for a production listed at Wynn/Encore that would begin rehearsals in October. Along with McKinley, the creative team is headed up by choreographer Marguirite Derricks, who has worked on “Zumanity” at New York-New York. One casting-call notice issued by Louanne Madorma, Wynn’s casting director who built the talent onstage in “Le Reve,” is for four principal vocalists: Two women and two men, all of whom are required to have “legit” Broadway, belt-it-out caliber voices.

Songs required include “All That Jazz” and “Razzle Dazzle” from Chicago, “Adelaide’s Lament” and “Luck Be a Lady” from “Guys and Dolls,” “It’s Today” from “Mame,” “Those Were the Days” from “Damn Yankees” and “Willkommen” from “Cabaret.”

Most telling, the contracts for the upcoming project are said to be open-ended with an “out” clause, which is a good indication that this production is to be … open-ended. Hotel officials and McKinley himself are not talking about what’s happening, but it seems that by fall, more shall be revealed at Wynn/Encore.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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