Monday, March 14, 2011 | 6:38 p.m.
Even amid a South Beach makeover, Tropicana still has room for vintage Vegas.
It has one room, actually: The old Tiffany Theater, which as of today has been renamed for a popular music legend.
Formally announced today was that Gladys Knight will begin what is described as a flexible residency at the newly named Gladys Knight Theater on April 5 (preview performances are March 31-April 2). Hotel President Tom McCartney described the commitment only as “several months.” If the show swings and Knight is enamored of the experience, it could go on indefinitely.
The show will be staged Tuesdays through Thursdays at 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays at 9 p.m.. Tickets are $65 and $75, plus taxes and fees. VIP packages are offered at $95 plus taxes and fees (for information, call 702-739-2411 or go to Tropicana’s Web site). Recycled Percussion and The Beatles tribute "Yesterday" will continue to perform in the room. Recycled Percussion will now be dark Tuesdays and Wednesdays, performing 7 p.m. Fridays through Mondays and 6 p.m. Thursdays. The schedule for "Yesterday," which is staged Tuesdays through Sundays at 5 p.m., is unchanged.
Knight, for decades a Las Vegas resident, has performed at some of the city’s most famous showrooms, including the since-razed Circus Maximus at Caesars Palace and Crystal Showroom at Desert Inn, and, most recently, Flamingo Las Vegas. Thus, Tropicana's move to showcase her in the venerable showroom runs counter to the hotel’s South Beach makeover.
But at the moment, the space long known as Tiffany Theater is an exception to the hotel-wide effort. With Knight, you get the tried-and-true: Renditions of classic contemporary music -- some from other artists, and many from her solo career and with the Pips -- sung in her famously soaring voice.
Knight will be backed by a quartet of singers and dancers and boosted by an 11-piece band. One of the original Pips, Merald “Bubba” Pip, will be featured onstage, too, likely performing the brand of shtick he contributed to Knight’s Flamingo run, which ended in 2006.
“I’m really, really, really excited to be back in Vegas,” Knight said today during an informal news conference for which she arrived with little fanfare and addressed the group for a few minutes while still wearing shades. “I’ve been coming here for many, many years, and I am a resident of this community.
“I’m an intimate girl. I like to see the people I perform for.”
She’ll be able to meet the audience face-to-face at the old Tiffany Theater, formally the home of “Folies Bergere,” which closed in March 2009. One of the last old-style Vegas showrooms, Tiffany seats about 800 fans and is laden with curved booths and table seating.
For more than a year, the hotel has been exploring when and how to renovate the showroom to expand capacity with theater seating, but McCartney said no significant changes would be made while Knight was in residency.
As for Knight, her voice halted when she talked of performing in a showroom bearing her name.
“I’m so honored. I feel emotional when I talk about this part,” she said. “The Tropicana has been so wonderful. You know, it’s always a wonderful thing to be wanted, and not just making a deal. When somebody embraces you and says, ‘We love you, we love what you’ve been doing, and they show it in everything that they do.
“I’ve been working here since 1967, and this will be the first time, that I know of … they’re naming the theater for me.”
Knight said her set list would be “a little bit of this and a little bit of that.”
“I’m old school, if I may say that. I’ve come through so many eras in this industry,” she said. “In the era that came about when they were blowing up everything (referring to expensive staging), I was at a stage in my career when I wanted to keep everything very bare.
“You’d be surprised at how people want to get back to what’s basic, not so much mechanical stuff. We have a live band performing. Live musicians, singers and dancers.”
And even one Pip.