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October 20, 2019

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‘With a Twist,’ Travis Cloer is ready to change seasons

‘Christmas at My Place’

Ira Kuzma

Travis Cloer’s “Christmas at My Place” at Cabaret Jazz on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, at the Smith Center.

‘Christmas at My Place’

Travis Cloer and Niki Scalera perform during Cloer’s “Christmas at My Place” at Cabaret Jazz on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, at the Smith Center. Launch slideshow »

Travis Cloer CD Release Party

Travis Cloer’s CD release party for “Christmas at My Place” at Foundation Room on Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Mandalay Bay. Cloer, right, is pictured here with Robin Leach. Launch slideshow »

For Travis Cloer, a new start coincided with the end of an era.

And he was prepared for all of it.

“My wife (Jennifer) and I have been talking about this for at least two years,” says Cloer, who has portrayed Frankie Valli in “Jersey Boys” on the Strip for eight years. “I think we all had an idea that it was coming. It’s kind of been brewing for a while, back of people’s minds.”

Set to debut a show titled “With a Twist” with Chris Lash at South Point on July 25, Cloer is referring to the announcement that “Jersey Boys” will close on Sept. 18. The company learned of the decision during a meeting in the show’s theater at Paris Las Vegas after Tuesday night’s performance.

The news was conveyed by the show’s executive producer, Sally Campbell Morse, representing the production company Dodger Theatricals. Cloer said the cast appreciated the 90-day notice and were somewhat relieved to know exactly when the show would meet its inevitable end.

The manner in which the news was delivered, in person by a well-liked executive, also helped soften the blow.

“They could very well have posted something on the board (backstage) or sent us an email, but it just goes to show the heart of this production that they wanted to tell us this news personally,” Cloer said in an interview on The Kats Report radio show airing 8 p.m. Friday on KUNV 91.5-FM. “It was somber … but once we were told about the meeting, we knew what was going on, and Sally is very personable, is a great producer and a great friend.

“She was very heartfelt with her words and just said that it was time for this chapter in ‘Jersey Boys’ to end.”

“Jersey Boys” opened at Palazzo Theater in May 2008 and moved to Paris in the spring of 2012. The show’s 8 1/2-year run is the longest of any Broadway-style show to play Las Vegas, outpacing “Phantom — The Las Vegas Spectacular” at Venetian and “Mamma Mia” at Mandalay Bay, both of which spanned six years.

A highly acclaimed production throughout its run, “Jersey Boys” fell prey to the simple arithmetic of show business. The numbers no longer penciled out, with too many audience counts at less than 500 seats and not enough at 900, the impressive figure that watched the show Tuesday night just before the announcement of closing.

Cloer and the cast had long been observing those audiences and understood that the end was imminent when the show’s schedule was pared down last year.

“We dropped from eight shows a week to six shows a week, I guess, seven or eight months ago,” Cloer said. “Whenever you do that, as an actor in a show you go, 'Oh, there’s something going on.’"

Cloer was a member of the show’s Broadway cast when he moved to Las Vegas in the late summer of 2008, about five months after the show opened at Palazzo Theater. During his time with the production, Cloer has been busy chiseling out impressive solo shows, especially his holiday performances at Cabaret Jazz in the Smith Center.

It was at Cab Jazz that Cloer met Lash, a gifted musician and arranger who has been a regular at the Composers Showcase of Las Vegas almost since its inception a decade ago. Lash most recently was enlisted to perform as music director for “Baz: Star Crossed Love,” coincidentally at Palazzo Theater, the original home of “Jersey Boys.”

The show is set for 7:30 p.m. July 25 at the newly renovated Grandview Lounge at South Point (tickets are $20 and available at Cloer and Lash have been plucking some contemporary classics, twisting them around and reproducing them in new genres.

“We want to perform these songs in a new way, something other than how they were originally recorded,” Cloer said. “You look at one of my favorite songs from the 1980s, ‘Hold Me Now’ by The Thompson Twins, which is very synth-heavy. We’ve turned it into a piano ballad, like something you’d hear from John Legend or Adele. We’ve put the lyrics out front, which are heartbreaking and lost in the original version.”

Another example of this fusion: The Journey hit, “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’,” which was actually inspired by Sam Cooke’s “Nothing Can Change This Love.”

“We’ve turned ‘Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ into a Sam Cooke song,” Cloer said.

This flavor of musical morphing is a trend for headliners in Las Vegas. Frankie Moreno’s “Under the Influence” production at Planet Hollywood slams together his originals with those from legendary artists. Clint Holmes’ just-announced “Between the Lines,” which opens July 16 in the time slot after “Baz,” also invokes classics reimagined by Holmes and his backing band.

This is no new phenomenon. Performers and composers have for generations pulled from those who have inspired them to create new art.

“One of the main reasons is we’re going through songs that meant so much to us as kids, singers and entertainers, and you just want to relive those songs and put yourself into it, as well,” Cloer said.

Also, drawing from familiar songs is a far more marketable approach than attempting to build a show full of original music. Las Vegas might be an entertainment mecca, but it is tough to sell tickets with a production loaded with unfamiliar material. But taking an original twist on, say, a Journey hit can boost interest in a show.

“Absolutely,” Cloer said. “There is a lot of competition out there, as we know.”

As “Jersey Boys” plays to its September end, Cloer says he’ll miss his “Las Vegas family” and seeing his fellow cast mates each night. He plans to keep Las Vegas as his home, regardless of how far Lash and he can take “With a Twist.” He’s forever an optimist as he enters this new season.

“I think the main thing is to stay true to what you see in your head and feel in your heart,” he said. “Let that be your guide, your north star, and follow that.”

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