Thursday, September 17, 2009

This week's LVW Col: Sparring With Hal

Here's this week's LVW col, the second straight about a theatrical octogenarian with Vegas ties! This week's podcast is coming later tonight. -Steve

Don't Call It A Downer!
Even at 81, Broadway legend and Phantom director Hal Prince has lost none of his enthusiasm for hat he does



It was my only concern.

Everything else seemed to be in place three years ago when Phantom of the Opera was being reborn as a shorter, more technologically exciting Vegas production. At the time, the Broadway thing was starting to hit a rocky shoal on the Strip, with Avenue Q, We Will Rock You and The Producers all closing or already gone, Spamalot and Hairspray en route (to eventually crash, alas) and Mamma Mia! behaving as its own trend-defying blockbuster self.

In Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular, there was a special combination of familiarity and only-in-Vegas excess thanks to that $40 million theater. I even told CityLife writer David McKee at the time: “If Phantom doesn’t work, then nothing will work. Period. End of story.”

Except there was one itsy-bitsy reason why it might not work, and, call me foolish or fearless, I brought it up to the man who directed and nurtured the opera-house squatter tale into a blockbuster phenomenon. I didn’t get all the way through the question.

“On Broadway, you walk out and it’s kind of a downer ...” I began.

“I don’t think so,” rumbled Hal Prince, he of a record 21 Tony awards, a Pulitzer Prize and a list of Broadway credits that includes directing Pajama Game, Damn Yankees, Fiddler on the Roof, A Little Night Music, Evita, Sweeney Todd and Cabaret. “I think you couldn’t be wronger. If you heard the audience go nuts screaming. You couldn’t be wronger. They’re up from their seats screaming, and they have been now for 18 years in New York.”

Make that 21 now. Plus three in Vegas. And, Prince predicted to me last week, many more to come: “It doesn’t sell out every night, but it’s doing just fine, and there’s no question it will just keep running and running and running indefinitely.”

I write of this now because thousands of Phanatics are descending on the Venetian for the first of what inevitably will become a regular Phantom Fan Week. Prince is back in town to keynote the event—his first return since opening the Vegas edition—and he’s taking a victory lap around, uh, me.

Read the rest at LasVegasWeekly.Com