Whenever Steve Wynn allows his name to be affixed to something, be it a billion-dollar hotel or a show-stopping production, you know he must be serious. He’s serious about Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers, no question. But he’s serious in a zealous sort of way.
“My passion is designing hotels and doing ShowStoppers,” he said during an interview in his office at Wynn Las Vegas. “This is the most personal project I’ve worked on in my whole life.”
Wynn unveils ShowStoppers on December 2 at Encore Theater. The musical was inspired by the 50th birthday party Wynn held in March for his wife, Andrea, at the hotel. That extravaganza starred Hugh Jackman and Rachel York, backed by 36 dancers and a 32-piece orchestra. Guests ranged from Quincy Jones and Steven Spielberg to the Adelsons (Sheldon and Miriam) to Neil Diamond and Garth Brooks. The cost out of Wynn’s own pocket: $5 million.
The director then, as now, was Philip Wm. McKinley, late of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the Broadway show originally targeted for Encore Theater. Three-time Emmy Award winner Marguerite Derricks, who worked on the original version of Zumanity at New York-New York, is the choreographer; Suzy Benzinger (Blue Jasmine, Ghostbusters) is the costume designer; and Dave Loeb, the mastermind behind the highly acclaimed UNLV Jazz Studies program, is the music director.
As the title insists, the production is a series of show-stopping numbers made famous in some of the greatest Broadway musicals. The show features one haymaker after another: “It’s Today” from Mame, “Elegance” and “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello, Dolly!, “Anything You Can Do” from Annie Get Your Gun. Twenty-one numbers, leading all the way to “The Country’s in the Very Best of Hands” from Li’l Abner, the political satire Wynn says “sounds like it’s from CNN, tonight.”
Six principal singers include a pair of male leads with Las Vegas lineage: Randal Keith, known on the Strip for his roles in Phantom—The Las Vegas Spectacular at Venetian and Monty Python’s Spamalot, and Andrew Ragone, who was also in Phantom.
It’s an open-ended production, totaling $10 million in pre-production costs. Thus, the show is an embarrassment of riches, from high-caliber principal vocalists to the sheer number of dancers and musicians employed.
“Most Broadway shows have 12 or 14 musicians. We’re using 30,” Wynn says. “When A Chorus Line was first shown, they had 18 people in the cast. We’ve got 28.”
The show needs to sell 500 seats per night. Is there an appetite on the Strip for this type of musical, in the very theater where Avenue Q and Spamalot closed after short runs? “We’ll find out,” Wynn says. “I’m all in with this one.”
ShowStoppers Tuesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday-Friday, 10 p.m.; $90. Encore Theater, 702-770-9966.