If nothing else, it can be said that the Phat survive.
The last show standing in an almost full eclipse of the productions at the Plaza is the Phat Pack. That plucky production of former “Phantom -- the Las Vegas Spectacular” performers Bruce Ewing, Ted Keegan and Randal Keith joined by pianist Joey Singer will continue to suit up and show up for their 5 and 7 p.m. shows three times a week.
But the others … not so lucky. As Bruce Springsteen once said, there’s been darkness on the edge of town, or in this case on the edge of Fremont Street. Beginning Friday night, the productions “Bite,” “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and “Grand Ole Vegas Revue” are all halted through at least Jan. 15. The Phat Pack will remain onstage through the end of the year, keeping with their Tuesday-Thursday-Friday rotation, but will, too, fall silent as issues in the Plaza Showroom are sorted out.
The dominoes at the Plaza began to tumble Thursday when “Bite” producer Tim Molyneux, citing concerns with management of the showroom and box office, told Plaza officials that he was shutting down his production until his concerns were addressed and resolved. The next day, the Plaza and showroom manager Anthony Cools -- he is the same Anthony Cools who is the comic hypnotist at Paris Las Vegas -- parted ways.
The shows requiring extensive production support -- “Whorehouse” and “Grand Ole Vegas” -- were immediately halted. The light and sound system installed by Cools will remain in place through the end of the year to allow for the Phat Pack performances and the hotel’s New Year’s Eve party.
Jonathan Gorst, co-producer of “Grand Ole Vegas,” said via email this afternoon, “Although we face the challenge of being dark for the next four weeks, we feel that it is an incredible opportunity to see that gem of a showroom be returned to its rightful status as a center of entertainment in Las Vegas. We considered our options carefully, and this was the one that made the most sense. It is certainly viable that we will be able to return to a full schedule once everything is ready.”
Molyneux moved “Bite” into the Plaza in mid-November after the adult vampire revue closed on Halloween after eight years at the Stratosphere. Molyneux says he swiftly encountered box office problems, primarily what he described as “slow and inconsistent” ticket payments to the producers doing business in the showroom.
“The management of the box office and showroom was not at a level it needs to be,” Molyneaux said in a phone interview today. “The issues were so strong and big that I had to make a decision based on the ticket report errors I had seen, matched with the fact that December and January are very slow months to begin with, to shut down the show.”
Cools also has been managing the bar and entertainment venue Drink, which the hotel shut down in late November. He still operates a salon on the property and says he was planning on pulling out of the hotel once his operating lease had expired. Asked when that contract was to end, Cools said he believed at the end of February.
“I would say this is a mutual parting of ways,” Cools said, also in a phone interview today. “I’m moving on, and I’m going to start enjoying life.” There was a kink in the showroom’s ticket operation when Prestige Travel Inc. of Las Vegas filed for bankruptcy protection in late October.
As was the case with many producers and venue operators in town, Cools was using Prestige subsidiary TripRes.com as its ticket broker. When Prestige went into bankruptcy, dragging TripRes with it, Cools had to enact a new box office system within 48 hours.
“Putting in a new ticketing system without warning in 48 hours is very difficult,” Cools said.
Left unanswered is who will manage a showroom whose schedule has been seriously disrupted two weeks before New Year’s Eve. At the moment, the Plaza is looking for anyone with sound and lights to brighten the hotel's prospects in 2013.