Friday, Jan. 5, 2007 | 7:10 a.m.
Opening in February: Mel Brooks' "The Producers" at Paris Las Vegas; "Spamalot" at Wynn Las Vegas
Closing: "Forever Plaid" at the Gold Coast (April 1);
Celine Dion's "A New Day ..." at Caesars Palace (Dec. 15);
"Mamma Mia!" at Mandalay Bay (summer 2008)
Las Vegas, which has struggled recently to bring top-notch shows to town, will face that challenge times two with Thursday's announcement that two long-running productions will close.
Celine Dion's "A New Day ..." will end its run at Caesars Palace on Dec. 15, and "Mamma Mia!" has decided to drop the final curtain in late summer 2008.
Both productions premiered in 2003, "Mamma Mia!" at Mandalay Bay in February and Dion in March at Caesars Palace's $100 million Colosseum, the city's most expensive venue.
Both productions - sharp contrasts of entertainment available in Las Vegas - are going out on top, which has observers scratching their heads as to what will and what won't work in a city that has been trying to become Broadway West.
"Mamma Mia!" is the ultimate feel-good show with catchy music and a milquetoast story. Dion is edgier, more in line with Cirque du Soleil than most concerts.
Producer Richard Martini, whose hit "Forever Plaid" at the Gold Coast is closing on April 1, wonders what the future holds.
"Most Broadway shows have a problem here," Martini said, pointing to "Hairspray," which bombed at the Luxor earlier this year, and "Avenue Q," which went belly-up at Wynn Las Vegas.
Two more Broadway shows are coming to test fate - Mel Brooks' "The Producers" at Paris Las Vegas and "Spamalot" at Wynn Las Vegas.
"For some reason I think 'Spamalot' has a shot at making it," Martini said. "It's wacky enough to be Vegas."
But Martini said it's tough to compete against the Cirque productions that dominate the scene.
"The average tourist spends 2.5 days here, so they're going to see a Cirque show and what else? All the shows have gotten very expensive."
Bill Moore, who started producing shows 50 years ago, said corporate ownership changed the showrooms.
"Something comes along that tickles their fancy, and I think they're going to buy it come hell or high water," he said.
Moore has heard the rumors that a Cirque show will end up at Mandalay Bay, whose owner MGM Mirage has five Cirque shows at its venues around town. "They have a relationship together. It doesn't cost the hotel a lot of money to be in business with Cirque because Cirque has deep pockets."
It has been no secret that Dion was leaving. She had extended her run by a year and announced she wants to have another child after her contract is up. Among the many singers rumored to take her place in the spotlight: Cher and Bette Midler.
But most observers were surprised by the closure of "Mamma Mia!" The ABBA musical has been playing in London's West End for seven years, on Broadway for five years and has 11 productions around the globe in seven languages.
"It's just a great experience and makes you feel so good. It delivers great entertainment, which is what people want when they come to Vegas," said Nina Lannan, the North American producer of "Mamma Mia!"
"We're very pleased with the economic side," said Scott Voeller, vice president of marketing at Mandalay Bay. "It's consistently been a high performer ... but I don't think anybody went into the relationship thinking this thing was going to last forever."
He wouldn't say what will replace it. "It has been fabulous. It's fun, energetic - that's going to be our goal, to find another show like that," he said. "Nothing is ruled out - but it will definitely be a permanent-type show."