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[The Kats Report]

Musical theater comes to Light Nightclub

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Jason Paige and Jason Byous from “Moulin Rouge” in “For the Record: Baz.”
Photo: Abel Armas

When Scott Zeiger made the pilgrimage from his office in New York City to see a little production in West Hollywood called For the Record: Baz, he was smitten immediately. The man who lords over Cirque du Soleil’s freshly assembled theatrical division says, “I saw it and instantly knew it would work in a club, and guess what?”

You own a club.

“We own a club.”

Thus was the initial courtship of Baz, a rollicking rock musical based on the films of the great writer, producer and director Baz Luhrmann. The production opens for previews June 22 at Light Nightclub, mixing the stories and music from Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby.

Thus, Baz is a new-era Cirque show, and as such does not follow the same architecture as most Cirque productions. It’s a show with a cohesive arc, a romance featuring the principal characters in the aforementioned films singing through a story sewn together by musical numbers such as “Lady Marmalade,” “Kissing You,” “Love Is in the Air” and “Crazy in Love.” The cast has been relocated from the original production at club DBA in LA, where the show closed at the end of May, to ensure that the Light version is the only one playing anywhere. The performance is choreographed through the 500-seat club, which is set almost in the round at a 270-degree stage, and a live band powers every number.

The idea of expanding musical theater into a nightclub, and reaching the audience that would typically enter a club such as Light, is highly appealing to Zeiger. “This can be looked at in a number of ways. It can be looked at truly as an alternative to so many of the other shows that are in the Las Vegas market. It’s another show to see for anyone interested in traditional show-going,” says Zeiger, former CEO of Base Entertainment who has delivered such shows as Phantom, Rock of Ages and Jersey Boys to the Strip. “So, instead of seeing Jersey Boys or Rock of Ages or whatever, here is another show you want to see. It’s small, it’s a boutique show, and our time slot [8 p.m.] is perfectly fine for that audience.”

But what of the nightclub dwellers who pack Light each weekend?

“For people who see it as a gateway to going into the club, it’s kind of interesting, kind of provocative and kind of exciting, because there are a lot of people who come to Vegas and enjoy the nightclub nightlife who would probably never be caught dead buying tickets to a show,” Zeiger says. “Show-going is not part of their decision set. But the nature of this show—being in a club and seeing the performers singing and being choreographed all around the club, where drinking and socializing is encouraged—is infinitely more warmly acceptable than if you are in a traditional theater.”

Then there is the obvious point: During the Baz show times, Light is not lit. These were formerly periods when the club was dark. “We’re monetizing the investment in the nightclub during dark time, and we’re appealing not just to our core clubgoer, but also to a wider ticket-buying audience,” Zeiger says.

Baz has a comparably low number of seats to sell at Light, just 3,000 per week, which is about the same number of seats available for two Cirque shows in a single night. The price point, too, sets it apart, as its $61 to $83 tag is about a third of most Cirque spectacles.

Baz will be something where you can have dinner, go to the club, especially with a date or in a group,” Zeiger says. “People in groups and people on dates will really enjoy it. I mean, it’s about love, which is appealing to everybody.”

In his role at Cirque, Zeiger is always scouting and scanning new ideas and concepts. He reads scripts and reviews all forms of performance art, off-Broadway shows, West End productions, anything that helps expand the traditional Cirque sensibility.

Zeiger became aware of the For the Record creative team a couple of years ago at the Montreal Jazz Festival, when he was in the city visiting Cirque’s headquarters. For the Record was staging its tribute to Quentin Tarantino, a production as riveting as any of Tarantino’s films. “I really liked the show, very much, and I brought a team of Cirque people with me [including CEO Daniel Lamarre], and everybody appreciated the art form. The problem was, it would be tough for us to get involved in a project like that out of the gate, because Tarantino is a bit violent, a little crass. It’s totally cool, but you know, the movies of Tarantino are by their very nature a bit more violent and a bit more edgy, and they were celebrating Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown. I told the guys at For the Record how much I enjoyed their work and said, ‘Let’s keep in close touch.’”

Soon after, Baz opened at DBA, first in a 60-seat configuration and later for a 210-capacity theater. The show swiftly became a hot ticket, and Zeiger saw the production with every decision-maker in the Cirque and Mandalay Bay universe. “Everyone who saw this show approved it,” as Zeiger says, by way of reaffirming the show’s artistic merit.

Which does not guarantee ticket sales, of course. “There’s a real competitive landscape in Las Vegas, unlike what you see in Montreal, Los Angeles, Chicago, where you can be the most unique thing in town for that limited time period,” Zeiger says. “It’s a different success level than when you are in Las Vegas, and my hope is that it does have an open-ended run on the Strip. I would love for it to find the cool-hip audience, the sort of word-of-mouth show that creates a buzz.”

Call it the Baz Buzz. To know what all the fuss is about, you have to hit the club.

For the Record: Baz Opens June 22, Wednesday-Monday, 8 p.m., $61-$83. Light Nightclub, bazlasvegas.com.

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