I don’t know about you, but I’ve become too familiar with those muddy, complicated feelings associated with working during this pandemic. There’s preposterous juxtaposition at play. I’m super grateful to remain employed and be able to work safely, but also, I don’t want to do it. It seems uninteresting and insignificant. And when I buckle down and muster the motivation, doing the actual work feels dismal and dreary.
Those are not adjectives a Las Vegas entertainment writer should be using.
I felt like this once before, about three years ago, but it didn’t last long. Donny Osmond snapped me out of it.
It was October 3, 2017, and I didn’t want to go see the Donny & Marie residency show at the Flamingo that Tuesday night, because I was pretty freaked out about the shooting that had occurred 48 hours earlier on the Las Vegas Strip. A few entertainment events that week had been canceled, but Vegas wasn’t empty; tourists were here, and shows were on the books. So Donny and Marie went onstage as planned. I saw the Strip pushing ahead despite the tragedy and confusion; took note of my brave, capable colleagues in the unique industry of Vegas; and realized I had to get back to work, too.
I sat alone in a booth in the fabulous Flamingo Showroom, and before he started singing, Donny Osmond greeted the audience with his sister and said: “A theater is a place where people come to dream in public. And we as entertainers are in charge of that dream. So we hope, for the next 90 minutes or so, that Marie and I and our entire cast can take you to a place where there are no problems. That’s what show business is all about. That’s why we’re here.”
All the Vegas shows that have reopened in recent months have done so with that same valiant goal, to offer a bit of an escape from the effects of the coronavirus. Sometime next year, when larger audiences can safely assemble, the various headlining musical residencies that have defined the modern era of live entertainment on the Strip will rejoin the smaller productions that are bridging the gap through this tough time.
And Donny Osmond will be part of that. Tickets are already on sale for his new solo residency at Harrah’s, opening August 31.
“With all these restrictions right now, I honestly believe Vegas is going to explode with enthusiasm. Everybody is so sick and tired of being cooped up,” Osmond told me on November 19, the night before the Harrah’s announcement. “Vegas has been such a huge part of my life, all my life. I’ve seen this town go up and down and every way you can imagine. It’s almost turned into a cliché when people say ‘Vegas Strong,’ but it’s real.
“This [pandemic] has been the toughest thing on Vegas, and you watch, Vegas is going to rebound bigger than ever,” he continued. “I’m very honored to be part of that wave, one of the first to be announced in a big way right now and help bring some life back into this city.”
Osmond’s is the second new Strip residency unveiled by Caesars Entertainment since September, when Usher’s show, opening July 16 at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, was announced. Caesars was forced to postpone the residency debuts of Kelly Clarkson (April 1 at Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood) and Sting (May 22 at the Colosseum) this year, so adding a multigenerational pop star of Usher’s caliber is a big deal.
When the Strip shuttered in March, its roster of musical headliners was shining brighter than ever before: Aerosmith, Christina Aguilera, Boyz II Men, Mariah Carey, Cher, John Fogerty, Journey, Lady Gaga, Barry Manilow, Bruno Mars, Reba McEntire with Brooks & Dunn, Wayne Newton, the Righteous Brothers, Diana Ross, David Lee Roth, Carlos Santana, Scorpions, Gwen Stefani, Rod Stewart, Shania Twain, Dionne Warwick and Robbie Williams. These shows happen in rooms of various sizes and command high ticket prices, but they’re also destination events. Visitors buy these tickets and build their trips around big, special nights.
Osmond’s show is just one of the concerts dedicated fans will attend more than once in the same year. That’s why he’s formulating an all-new production with special segments designed to connect with his audience on a very personal level. For tourists, these residencies have become the comfort food of Vegas entertainment, and they’ve been missing it badly for almost a year now.