Wednesday, July 11, 2012 | 9 p.m.
It was a bittersweet moment as the cast of “Phantom -- the Las Vegas Spectacular” at the Venetian celebrated the musical’s sixth anniversary last month under the shadow of closing Sept. 2.
My not-so-easy task was to talk about the happiness of the 2,614th show and simultaneously the sadness of the nearing final curtain.
I met the show’s four principals backstage: Tony Award-winning Anthony Crivello (Phantom), Kristi Holden (Christine Daae), Andrew Ragone (Raoul) and Tina Walsh (Madam Giri).
Here’s the transcript of our conversation:
Robin Leach: What are the emotions of celebrating six phenomenal years, yet knowing this cloud over your head that it’s all about to end forever?
Cast: You realize that there’s a chapter in your life closing and also a chapter in the history of the Strip. “Phantom” was a huge production that was built just for Las Vegas, so it’s an end of an era for us and the show that’s been a big part of our lives.
Shows do come and go in this town, but when it closes, it will be 6 1/2 years, and that’s pretty extraordinary. We beat “Mama Mia” -- it was just shy of six years by one month, but we didn’t beat “EFX,” that was eight years (March 1995 to January 2003).
It is sad because it came here as such a beautiful production. It’s funny, today I’m driving in, and on top of a taxi it says, “You’ll never see it again ever.” That is an extraordinary realization. You can go to New York and London to see it, but all these extra bells and whistles in the Venetian, no, you’re not going to see it again.
R.L.: When you say end of an era, is that also an end of an era for theater in Las Vegas? Has quality theater ended in Las Vegas, too?
Cast: I don’t think so at all. It’s always been about the right vehicle, the right shows. Las Vegas is specifically different because the shows are a byproduct of a vacation. People just come to Las Vegas, not just to see a particular show as the destination. So it’s like we’re tired of gambling, tired of going to the clubs, let’s go see a show tonight.
I don’t think it’s the end of an era. I think Cirque is topping out. I think there’s going to be some new other type of show that will come in. I still think that good Broadway shows that are big hits will do well here. “Wicked” or something like that will come in and do very well. It really is a matter of cost of what it takes to run these shows.
R.L.: So what’s next? Do you up and leave? Do you flee to Broadway or other theatrical capitals. Are you all gypsies once more?
Cast: None of us know what that next chapter is. When moments like this happen, especially in our business, you just have to let life unfold. It’s hard not to worry, but it’s just best to have faith and put yourself out there and let life unfold because things unexpectedly happen.
It’s kind of hard to plan in our business, to know what you’re going to do the next month, the next six months. In January, we came back after the New Year, and we had no idea we were getting our closing notice. You just put yourself out there and see what comes up in your life.
Anthony Crivello: I became a Las Vegas resident, a local. I have a home, and this is home base, but now comes for all of us the gypsy life, so we have to adapt accordingly. During the run of this show, I had two kids who are now 5 and 2 -- both are enrolled in pre-school. I don’t want to disrupt their world, but the irony is that I’m probably headed back to New York. You go where the work is.
The gypsy life can be exciting, but you just don’t ever know what the future holds. I’ve been letting the casting people and directors I’ve worked with before know that the end is coming. The irony for all of us is that the path to Las Vegas is probably through New York with what we do. So it could very well happen that we go to Broadway and bring a show back to Las Vegas!
Tina Walsh: My son lives here, and it will have to be the center for me. I have a house, and he still has two more years. So until he’s able to be on his own, I have to make this my home base. Every time a show closes, I say, “Oh, it’s time to go,” but something surprises me and keeps me here. Never say never.
R.L.: Is the energy on tonight’s sixth anniversary as much as it’s always been? How will you get your energy, your enthusiasm up for the final performances in September?
Cast: When it’s ending, we will feel that emotion of, “Oh, my God, I’m part of this amazing show.” We all feel that, and as it’s getting closer and closer, you hold on and cherish those little moments and the backstage stuff that we have -- that’s what carries us through it. It won’t be sad in itself. It will just be sad to say goodbye to people. Sad to say goodbye to a show family, but there’s an excitement to keep you energized.
On Sept. 2, we still have to do that show and make the audience feel the same things no matter what. We can’t get too sentimental about the whole journey ending with that one show because they have paid to see it and want to experience the emotions all the others have felt before.
R.L.: After six years of working together, there has to be tears on that final night?
Cast: We’ll probably start crying, thinking as each scene ends that’s the last time ever on this stage. That’s the last time that scene will happen ever on this stage. On Sept. 2, after each word is sung, it ends, and that heightens your emotion and it’s nostalgic and sentimental, but it will also be a magical experience to say goodbye.
R.L.: “Phantom” is such an extraordinary show -- the way it was written, the way it was crafted, the way it was scored. The way it was produced particularly here in Las Vegas when the Venetian owners gave the commitment for this magnificent theater to be built. Is it safe to say there will never be another show like this?
Cast: We’ve all talked about that for sure. There are shows when they’re done, they make them big, but the nature of our show is so grandiose. It embraces opulence, so they took it to the level of really opulent that the audience has always felt. And that’s what we’re saying. You’ll never see that again.
You might see a show with wham, bam crazy effects, but that’s different than the grandiose of a gigantic musical that really just let the audience be a part of it. That’s why shows change and this show still runs, and what people love about it is that it’s romantic and not just in the material, but in the look of it. It has a kind of sexy, old-fashioned manner.
Check back Thursday for Part 2 of my conversation with the “Phantom” cast.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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