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November 27, 2014

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‘Vegas Nocturne’ closes at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. in the Cosmopolitan

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John Katsilometes

The final cantos of “Vegas Nocturne” at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Final Cantos of ‘Vegas Nocturne’

The final cantos of “Vegas Nocturne” at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Mario Lopez at Rose. Rabbit. Lie.

Mario Lopez attends “Vegas Nocturne” at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. in the Cosmopolitan on Friday, April 11, 2014, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Bryan Ferry at Pearl at the Palms

Bryan Ferry performs at Pearl at the Palms on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

In the vernacular of “Vegas Nocturne,” we’ll break down the show’s closing Saturday night in three parts. Or cantos, if you will:

• Canto 1: The character of Ripley, the quirky manservant and sidekick so ably performed by Spencer Novich, turns to audience members seated in the theater’s front row and says, “I’m glad you’re all here because this is probably the last time you’ll ever see this!”

• Canto 2: Co-host Beverley Rossina Falzone-Buzukhov, the sister of the show’s other co-host, Alfie, shows the audience a printed document as part of the donation to her fake charity that assists children injured by musical instruments. “All we have received is 50 cents — and this unemployment form from the State of Nevada.”

• Canto 3: At the end of their percussive, spinning and acrobatic tap number on the show’s elevated, rotating stage, John Scott of the twin-brother act Sean & John, stops, his body heaving from emotion and exhaustion. His brother places his hand on his sibling’s shoulder, and John wipes the away the sweat and tears of the final night of “Vegas Nocturne.” The crowd rises, roaring for one of the Strip’s finest acts.

Those were the moments that gave the audience, which jammed the 500-seat venue for all three of the cantos Saturday night, an indication that the show was about to close.

Made official this morning with a release from the show’s host hotel, the Cosmopolitan, is that “Vegas Nocturne” indeed played its last shows Saturday night at the restaurant, lounge and entertainment fortress Rose. Rabbit. Lie. That space will remain open, continuing its evolution as the self-dubbed grand social experiment, open from 5:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.

The announcement today gave no formal explanation as to why “Vegas Nocturne,” which opened with such pomp and promise on New Year’s Eve, is on its way out. And the show’s producer, Ross Mollison of Spiegelworld, has said nothing about the production’s future.

He did inform the cast this month that the show was to move to a new venue. He praised the performers’ amazing collective talent (and he was right about that) and directed everyone to keep quiet about plans for the show, whatever they may be.

In the time since, rumors have floated that a version of the production would be brought into SLS, Drai’s After Hours at the Cromwell, a tented facility similar to the “Absinthe” venue at Caesars Palace and even a possibility that Steve Wynn (whose name always seems to surface when shows are moving or developing) would snap up the show. Know that none of this has been officially verified or even addressed.

What are certain is that “Vegas Nocturne,” a partnership between Spiegelworld and the hotel, was a lavishly expensive show and that the Cosmopolitan is under new ownership, with the multinational private equity company the Blackstone Group buying the resort in June for $1.73 billion. As the term “equity” indicates, the bottom line is paramount for the new owners, who are expected to make some bold changes at the hotel, including a redesign of the casino floor.

In this discussion, “Vegas Nocturne,” the Cosmo’s resident show, was reportedly spending far more money on its own grand experiment than it was taking in. Those who follow entertainment in Las Vegas instinctively rejected initial reports of the show dropping $1 million a month.

But that number is more probable when you know that a single act — the aerial bathtub act that was also famous in “Peepshow” at Planet Hollywood — cost the show $10,000 a week to stage. And that is just one act in a show that has featured more than 30 entertainers (not counting the sound and lighting crew, ushers and various stagehands).

Click to enlarge photo

The final cantos of “Vegas Nocturne” at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Click to enlarge photo

The final cantos of “Vegas Nocturne” at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Click to enlarge photo

The final cantos of “Vegas Nocturne” at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. on Saturday, July 12, 2014, in the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

An artistic success whose quantity of talent likely surpassed any show on the Strip, “Vegas Nocturne” suffered an identity crisis even before it opened. Producers, hotel officials and the team at Rose. Rabbit. Lie struggled to convey exactly what the show was to be. In an effort to separate it from its sister production “Absinthe,” those speaking for the show said it was to be unique and had to be seen to be understood.

Prospective ticket buyers were left confused about how the canto system worked, if the show they were seeing at 7:30 p.m. was totally unique from the one at 9:30 and the third canto at midnight. As it was, many performers were featured in all three productions, with the beatbox musician and singer Butterscotch and Sean & John spanning shows throughout the night.

But that initial confusion about what was to be performed, and whether it would be necessary to purchase tickets to the show three times, over time, to get the full scope of “Vegas Nocturne” certainly caused some head-scratching among prospective ticket buyers.

After a while, if you are attempting to sort out how to deal with “Vegas Nocturne” and the separate dinner reservation at Rose. Rabbit. Lie., the default decision is often, “Screw it, let’s just see ‘Absinthe.’ ” Or a Cirque show. Or “Jersey Boys.” Or Human Nature.

Unlike the Cirque productions, which coexist happily under a single Cirque-ian umbrella, “Vegas Nocturne” was rarely paired in marketing with the show sharing the same sensibility, tenor and production company, “Absinthe.” At the very least, knowing that the two shows were similar in attitude, execution and quality would have answered a lot of questions.

And it did not help the show generate any word-of-mouth of consequence in Las Vegas when even performers in other shows insistently referred to the production as “Rose. Rabbit. Lie.” instead of “Vegas Nocturne,” a clear example of brand confusion.

The Rose. Rabbit. Lie. title has never been explained, either, but at this point even the venue’s most devout supporters have about given up on figuring out that one. There is a time when trying to be too groovy only leads to confusion and exasperation, and “Vegas Nocturne” did seem to cross that line.

The sadness of the closing one of the Strip’s truly great productions didn’t appear to be shared by Mollison himself. If he is at all in distressed, he didn’t show it, gliding around the final night wearing a well-tailored tux and equally befitting grin.

Mollison loves Las Vegas, and the city has been warm in its reception for his signature show at Caesars. His eyes widen at the idea of bringing a show to downtown Las Vegas (though not the one that just closed) and expanding his Spiegelworld empire in some brazen fashion.

On the final night, Mollison sought to celebrate, not host a wake. He ordered the LED lights trimming the “Absinthe” tent colored blue, the favored color of “Vegas Nocturne,” to mark the show’s 100th performance, which was actually Wednesday night.

To open the third and final canto, the last-ever canto for the show at the Cosmopolitan, Mollison poured bubbly into a champagne tower standing four feet tall in the middle of the stage. He thanked the cast and the audience packing the room, mentioning only the 100th performance and not the all-too-obvious closing of the show.

“I have five words,” he said, holding his glass aloft. “Vegas Nocturne is a hit.”

Whether that statement was the show’s sendoff or the mark of a new beginning is open to debate. But what is inarguable is the Impresario, rich and wily and unfailingly self-confident, is always in character. Don’t count him out, last night or any night.

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

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