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April 23, 2014

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Photos: Inside Britney Spears’ new theater Axis at Planet Hollywood, plus, ‘Piece of Me’ show secrets

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

PH Live at Planet Hollywood is officially renamed The Axis at Planet Hollywood on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

The Axis at Planet Hollywood

Bret Gallagher, president of Southern California and Las Vegas for Live Nation; Jason Gastwirth, senior VP of marketing and entertainment for Caesars Entertainment;
Gary Loveman, chairman and CEO of Caesars Entertainment; and David Hoenemeyer, Planet Hollywood president, attend the official remaining of PH Live to The Axis at Planet Hollywood on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

The Axis at Planet Hollywood

Britney Spears Arrives at Planet Hollywood

Britney Spears arrives at Planet Hollywood on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Britney Spears’ red carpet next Friday, Dec. 27, for the world premiere of her new two-year residency show “Piece of Me” at Planet Hollywood should be one of the biggest star-studded events Las Vegas has seen since The Rat Pack days.

That was the promise this morning from Caesars Entertainment executives as they announced that PH Live at Planet Hollywood has been renamed the Axis at Planet Hollywood.

“It’s a whole new experience, a complete cosmetic transformation,” Jason Gastwirth, senior VP of marketing and entertainment, told me.

Planet Hollywood also confirmed our previous Vegas Deluxe reports that nightlife czar Victor Drai will run the hospitality food and beverage services in the new-look theater with a nightclub-like atmosphere in the newly opened up lobby area and VIP table service alongside the Axis’ new dance zone.

“It’s a theater now with a dance floor. It’s a theater now with a lobby that’s the equivalent of a club experience,” Jason continued. “In addition to the new VIP seating booths, there’s new flooring, new carpeting. The sound system has been entirely revamped, so it’s the most up-to-date technology anywhere in the world.

“On top of that, we have the latest innovations in LED technology that is way beyond crystal clear and wraps the audience inside the massive projections above the stage, in front of them and down its sides. We’re certainly the first in America with all of this and maybe the world.”

The stage is now twice the size of any large arena-sized touring show. Britney will use an elevated anchor-shaped lip to strut out onto the dance floor that’s slightly below her to the VIP cocktail tables and couches with Victor’s bottle server models. Seating has been scaled back from 7,400 seats to a more-intimate 4,600 to have them all up close to the performers.

“So close, in fact, Britney and all the stars who perform there will be able to see every face in the audience,” said her manager, Larry Rudolph. “It’s extraordinary because people just aren’t used to seeing her so up close in what appears such an intimate setting.”

Britney added: “I wanted the feeling that fans would be in the show with me. It’s such a cool set-up, and we have the party vibe really going on between us. I wanted to bring the best with a real entertainment show, and we have a great production.”

Although security kept the stage and the LED-projection effects screened off today to keep the surprise a total first-ever reveal next Friday, I can report that it’s the biggest part of Britney’s show. Not only do the LED effects acts as scenery changes for her, but they also change the mood of the audience as it’s fully immersed inside this celebration of her career.

Britney, now a 32-year-old global superstar with a solid, hit-filled 15-year career, will sing and dance her way through 20 of her biggest hits. She also will include songs from her new album, “Britney Jean.”

“It’s a massive production with 14 dancers, incredible choreography, amazing costumes, huge sound and a four-piece rock band for her solos. It’s a true Las Vegas residency show the likes of which have never been seen on the Strip before,” I was told.

“Britney wanted perfection, and she’s got it. She’s been rehearsing around the clock since she got into town. She may well be the hardest-working woman in showbiz. She says that she loves her theater, loves the show, loves everything about the entire experience. She’s enjoying every moment of it. She’s confident and radiantly happy.”

Director Baz Halpin, who has won numerous awards for his Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Pink touring shows, has brought Britney’s vision for the show to life. It took him more than four months to design the lighting, visuals and production.

“Call it a visual variety show touching on all the things that excite her — pieces of her imagination, pieces of her life and even pieces of her dreams,” he said. Britney added: “Baz inspires total trust and confidence.”

Caesars Entertainment Chairman and CEO Gary Loveman says it changes the demographic of Las Vegas: “It’s the next great step forward in entertainment for us after the 10-year success story at the Colosseum in Caesars Palace.”

Executives say Britney and the future Planet Hollywood entertainers will bring in a much-needed and -wanted younger demographic to the Strip.

“We now have the heart of her fans ages 25 and older into their early 30s, while Celine, Shania, Rod and Sir Elton have the 40-year-upward crowd. It’s a new younger audience that will not just come in for a one-night arena show. They’ll be here for a few days, and that solidly builds the future of Las Vegas,” I was told.

Planet Hollywood also announced its new partnership with the entertainment conglomerate Live Nation. Jason said: “We’ve been working together the past two months, so we have a number of mini-residencies and one-nighters in the pop-rock category in the pipeline already.

“We’re getting very close with being able to announce top touring content and mini-residencies. We will have a whole new spring schedule, and by the end of Britney’s first run of shows through to February, we’ll be ready to announce them.”

You will get a sneak peek at early rehearsal workouts, Britney’s arrival in Las Vegas and the new Planet Hollywood dress rehearsals for the first time on E! Entertainment Television this Sunday in the back-to-back, two-hour special “I Am Britney Jean.”

We are now just eight days away from the sold-out premiere. Among the celebrities expected on opening night: Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Sia, DJ Pauly D and Adam Lambert. More stars are being added, and more will attend different shows in her first run through Feb. 22. After a brief break, she returns April 25 for shows through Sept. 6.

“We are extremely pleased with Britney’s ticket sales,” Jason summed up for me. “Genuinely happy. That’s why we released ticket sales and dates for her second run. It’s a total validation of her success and strength. You only have to wait a few days more to see all the excitement. You’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s going to blow your mind.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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