Las Vegas Sun

June 17, 2019

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Steve Wyrick Theatre a dark monument to struggling Vegas showrooms

Steve Wyrick Theatre

Steve Marcus

Shoppers pass by the closed Steve Wyrick Theatre in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood last month. Wyrick’s $34 million theater that seats 500 people opened in early 2007 — right before the recession reduced visitation to Las Vegas.

Click to enlarge photo

Steve Wyrick.

Map of Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood

Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood

3663 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas

Most places, it’s customary to turn the lights out when you leave. Not here; not in Las Vegas.

Last month, the grandly titled Steve Wyrick Theatre and Entertainment Complex went out of business — went dark, as they say in showbiz.

But the lights are still on, night and day, blazing away. You’d never know that the theater is financially drained, and that the acts it housed, including Wyrick’s own “Real Magic,” have vanished.

But that’s part of the illusion in Vegas entertainment — “we’ll be right back, folks!”

Wyrick’s empty theater is emblematic of the state of entertainment on the Strip in early 2010. The keyword: attrition. The last months of 2009 saw a slow leak of talent from the Strip’s showrooms, with acts from household-name headliners to has-beens and once-wases alike making for the exits.

It looks like business as usual at the Wyrick complex, embedded in the chaotic cacophony of the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Box office signs sparkle, backlit posters tout magician Wyrick, pictured astride a chopper, and a reunion of some configuration of the Platters, Coasters and Marvelettes. Like many Strip showrooms, the 500-seat theater was host to a variety of acts at different hours, from afternoon to late night.

Peer through the mesh curtain that encases the theater complex during off hours and you’ll see Wyrick-branded magic kits strewn on one countertop, the white marble countertop at Triq bar aglow from within, ready for customers. The only indication that something’s amiss is a small sign that reads “Unfortunately tonight’s performances are canceled. All refunds will be provided by our ticket provider/broker.”

The sign also provides a number to call. The chipper recording makes no mention of any difficulties. A click on goes directly to a generic server page.

The first leaf fell from the Strip’s showbiz branch late last year: In September, Caesars Palace announced that its Comedy Festival would go dark in 2010, in what would have been its fifth year.

“Mamma Mia!” and was quickly replaced by “The Lion King” at Mandalay Bay. But the disappearing acts continued: Venerable “Folies Bergere” flew back to France before hitting its 50-year-mark, leaving its showroom sadly feather-free. The eternal and seemingly indestructible Charo put her open-ended gig at the Riviera on ice; the Riv’s figure-skating revue “Ice: The Show From Russia” met the same fate, leaving yet another casino showroom chilly and dark.

The Scintas split from the Las Vegas Hilton. Wayne Brady canceled all his fourth-quarter dates at the Venetian because of “vocal strain.” The cast of “Freaks” packed their broken-glass canapés and flesh-piercing spikes and slithered out of the upstairs room at O'Shea's. The Harmon Theater lost three of its variety shows, including Cashetta’s “Magic’s a Drag” and filed for bankruptcy reorganization last week.

Of course, these and other losses could be attributed to the normal cycles and churn that affect the entertainment industry. But it’s clear that the chilling villain is — duh, the economic downturn, which has distinctly dimmed the Strip’s showscape. Visitors are down — you can feel it in the traffic, in the parking lots, on the casino floors. And those who do come are gripping their ATM cards tighter, selecting their entertainment by what they can get for cheap or for free.

One-night bookings continue to appear — Caesars will surely find someone to fill the substantial Bette- and Elton-shaped holes in its calendar. But smaller-scale residencies are going begging, and more showrooms are likely to go — and stay — empty.

Strip properties may want to plug the holes, but with what? Who is going to invest in producing a new show now? What performer has the money to stake themselves? Mounting a show, after all, isn’t plug-and-play — choosing an entertainer, plopping them on a stage and turning on the “Now Playing” marquee.

Without the top-of-mind recognition and marketing muscle of a juggernaut like Cirque du Soleil or the Colosseum, and with an audience that’s looking for deals “uber alles”, the Strip is a bleak environment for starting and nurturing new shows, even for troupers suffused with a “Hey kids, let’s put on a show!” spirit.

Bundle up and brace yourself: The losses aren’t over. More Strip acts are certain to vanish—or just never happen.

— Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly, a sister publication of the Sun.

CORRECTION: A reference to Zowie Bowie folding its act was removed from this story. | (January 25, 2010)

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