Industry Weekly

[Evolution]

Encore Theater’s headliners expand Wynn’s entertainment dynasty

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Harry Connick Jr. just wrapped two weekend sessions at Encore Theater.
Photo: Erik Kabik / Courtesy

Encore Theater was originally built at Wynn Las Vegas to accommodate the Tony Award-winning production Avenue Q. When that show’s run ended, it stayed on track by hosting musical comedy Spamalot, although the resort added three rows to the balcony and reseated the entire theater, boosting its capacity from 1,200 to 1,500 seats.

That remains the only major renovation to Encore Theater, a lavish space that has morphed into one of the top headliner rooms on the Strip. It recently hosted concerts from Harry Connick Jr. and Tony Bennett; John Fogerty, Diana Ross and Mel Brooks will return in 2018 after acclaimed performances this year; and Alabama, The Moody Blues and Elvis Costello are also on the upcoming calendar.

Wynn’s General Manager of Entertainment Operations Rick Gray says the new direction is a true collaboration with AEG Worldwide. “I think we started the headliner idea with Garth [Brooks in 2009], and that was mutually successful,” Gray says. “When [Steve Wynn’s] Showstoppers ended, the guys from AEG came over, and it was just fortuitous. We all saw the entertainment world in Vegas swinging again more toward headliners than production shows, and we thought, ‘Let’s try this out.’”

Intimacy sets the venue apart: Showgoers get to see huge artists that could easily fill a much larger space in Encore Theater’s luxurious and cozy confines. “We had Diana Ross at the Colosseum [at Caesars Palace] a couple years ago, but she couldn’t do a nine-show run there,” says Bobby Reynolds, VP of Booking for AEG Las Vegas. “We did that at Encore and practically sold out every night, and it was great enough to bring her back in February. And what the artists like the most is calling Wynn home. Walking into that theater is unlike any other in town. It becomes more about their lifestyle and how they want to spend their time here.”

The audience gets a unique experience and the resort gains performances it hasn’t consistently offered in the past. “The great thing about Wynn is, the man whose name is on the building is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about entertainment, and he’s always on the lookout for something unique, surprising and wonderful,” Gray says.

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Brock Radke has been writing about Las Vegas for more than 15 years. He currently covers entertainment, music, nightlife, food ...

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