Virgin’s new ‘27’ show brings some of rock’s biggest heroes back from the other side

The cast of ‘27’ hits the stage at 24 Oxford at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
Photo: Kelli Hayden / Courtesy

A rock ’n’ roll retrospective exploring the music and legacy of iconic artists like Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Amy Winehouse sounds like something that would have fit nicely into the old Vinyl room at the Hard Rock Hotel. Now that the space is called 24 Oxford and the resort has transformed into Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, it still fits.

27 – A Musical Adventure is something we didn’t know we’d get right off the bat at Virgin—a resident production show. The original concept evolved from a movie to a Broadway play to a concert production, which is how it debuted at the Troubadour in LA in March 2020 with plans to tour the country.

When the pandemic stalled those plans, “Vegas seemed like a natural place for it,” says co-creator Ramy El Batrawi, whose company Hen Entertainment is producing the show at Virgin.

“The room here is perfect for what we’re doing, and it’s even named after the first record store [Virgin Hotels brand founder] Richard Branson had in London,” El Batrawi says. “It’s sort of hand-in-glove. And the show is pretty amazing, a true rock concert, not just a tribute show. You will feel like you were there when these artists were touring.”

Cobain, Hendrix, Morrison, Winehouse, Janis Joplin and Robert Johnson are the artists and created the music at the core of 27, named for the age when they all passed away. The show opened in the approximately 850-seat 24 Oxford on May 19, and it moves chronologically, from Johnson to Winehouse, featuring a cast of musicians and singers from LA who are mostly new to tribute-style performances.

“It’s very exciting from a musician’s standpoint to get to play six styles of music in one night, so we really needed to find the best of the best that can play authentically and with passion, and singers that can transform themselves into the character,” says musical director Erik Himel, a touring guitarist and producer who held down a six-year residency at the famed Viper Room in West Hollywood. “There’s not one person [with Las Vegas experience] in our show; it’s completely fresh faces. And everybody is used to playing stadiums and backing up other artists.”

John Bingham, who portrays Johnson, played in Fishbone, and Toby Rand, the show’s Morrison, appeared on reality show Rock Star: Supernova. Rounding out the cast are Tita Hutchison or Adi Argelazi as Joplin, Nazim Chambi as Hendrix, Gabe Maska as Cobain, Lea Cappelli as Winehouse, Himel and Jimmy Khoury on guitars, Victor Broden on bass, Jake Haden on drums and Adam Peri on keys.

Las Vegas entertainment is still in flux coming out of the pandemic, but there was an obvious and immense appetite on and off the Strip for classic rock and music from bygone eras, proven by successful recent residency runs from Aerosmith, Def Leppard and Journey. If it can gain a post-COVID foothold during this initial six-month run, 27 should fit right into a rejuvenated show landscape and generate some buzz for the new hotel and casino.

“I think it’s a big advantage to open now, because there are very few shows still and all of them are selling out,” El Batrawi says. “And you can come back to this show, because it’s like listening to your favorite albums over and over again. I think it’s a word-of-mouth show, and it’s going to spread like crazy.”

27 – A MUSICAL ADVENTURE Wednesday-Sunday, 8:30 p.m., $65-$125. 24 Oxford at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, 27show.com.

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