Thursday, Jan. 25, 2001 | 6:54 a.m.
Rocker and former soap opera star Rick Springfield is trying his luck in Las Vegas. He takes the stage Tuesday as the lead in the newly titled production show "EFX Alive" at the MGM Grand hotel-casino.
But that doesn't mean Springfield is going to become a lounge lizard.
"The weirdest thing for me was to do a show in Vegas," he told The Associated Press during rehearsal Thursday. "I always thought Vegas is where musicians come to die."
Springfield even used a line in his movie "Hard to Hold" in which he tells the band "you guys keep playing like this and we'll be ready for Vegas in a year."
That was then.
"When I started playing here 2 1/2 years ago, I saw how the place had changed," Springfield said. "It's a totally different atmosphere. Everyone comes through this town.'
The entertainer, whose best-known song is "Jessie's Girl" and who captivated soap-opera fans in the 1980s with his portrayal of Dr. Noah Drake on television's "General Hospital," says Las Vegas has evolved from a gambling town to an entertainment mecca.
"It's like a younger, more party-oriented New York," he said. "I love it here."
The 51-year-old, whose shaggy hair, earring, lean physique and black-leather Harley-Davidson jacket belie his age, considers "EFX Alive" as a stage project that allows him to mix his love of theater and music.
"I came here as an actor principally, and as a singer secondarily in the show," he said. "It's all performance."
And Springfield wants to make it clear that he did not change his music to fit a "Vegas" show. He did, however, write two new songs for the show that will also include his hit, "Human Touch."
Springfield replaces Broadway star Tommy Tune in the $75 million production, that previously featured David Cassidy and Michael Crawford. MGM Grand approached him about doing the show when Crawford was leaving and later when Cassidy was about to depart, but the timing wasn't right, Springfield said.
The award-winning singer will make his "EFX" debut the same day his first live album, "Greatest Hits Alive," is set to be released by Universal. An "EFX" soundtrack album also is being produced.
In "EFX," the star leads the audience on a journey exploring the world's of the wizard Merlin, the showman P.T. Barnum, illusionist Harry Houdini and science-fiction author H.G. Wells.
What changes can audiences expect to see in the revamped show?
"We've tightened the show up a lot," Springfield said. "It's got a lot of new music, great choreography and a new story line. And there's stunts; I love stunts."
Springfield said he signed a yearlong contract.
MGM Grand officials are hoping the rocker will bring his fans along to help revitalize the production that first opened in March 1995.
"The introduction of new headliners into "EFX" allows us the opportunity to see the show evolve with the personality of each performer," said Richard Sturm, president of MGM Mirage Entertainment and Sports. "We feel it's important to keep the show current, fresh and exciting."
The show's name was changed to reflect the addition of Springfield, who sees this latest gig as a natural evolution of his 30-year career.
"I always wanted a long career and that involves diversifying and staying passionate about everything you do," he said. "I'm excited about this."