Sunday, July 8, 2018 | 2 a.m.
I’ve seen the romantic, creative musical “Baz” twice during its Las Vegas run and had the same reaction both times. About 15 minutes into the performance, all I could think about was that I needed to come back and see it again.
I might not get another shot. After a short initial run in 2015 at Light Nightclub at Mandalay Bay and a much more solid two years of shows at the Palazzo Theatre, “Baz” comes to a close at the end of this month. Created by Los Angeles-based live entertainment company For The Record, the show artfully combines the music and characters from three films by Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann: “Romeo + Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Great Gatsby.” It moves fast and feels familiar — clearly you don’t have to see those films to know the material — and has become an industry favorite thanks to a rotating cast of truly talented singers, actors and dancers. We’re going to miss this one.
Musical theater on the Las Vegas Strip has always been a dicey proposition. There’s a long list of Broadway shows that couldn’t find their footing in the tourist-dominated desert. With so many spectacular, well-financed headliner and production shows leading today’s scene, it’s a particular rough road for an upstart relying on fresh talent, clever writing and terrific music, but “Baz” seemed like a breakthrough. Maybe it was. It’s definitely worth catching again or for the first time before the July 28 finale.
The core of the cast is three couples from the three movies: Satine (Anne Martinez) and Christian (Danny McHugh) from “Moulin Rouge!”; Romeo (Paul Johnson) and Juliet (Jaclyn McSpadden); and Daisy (Allie Trimm) and Gatsby (Doug Carpenter). The powerful, commanding voice of Martinez was the only one still singing in the same role from the first time I saw “Baz.” Just as important are the performances of the great Randal Keith (as Zidler, a sort of emcee-ringmaster character from “Moulin Rouge!” who crosses into each storyline) and the tremendous dancing duo of Sarah Le Clear and Alejandro Domingo. It may sound like there’s too much going on in this show, but that’s not the experience; handfuls of great songs tumble into a streamlined story combining each couple’s struggle for love and happiness.
The first emotional highpoint is when the Gatsby-Daisy love story is explained, leading into the performance of Lana Del Rey’s tragic “Young and Beautiful.” That carries over into an ever slower-burning ballad, the gorgeous “I’m Kissing You,” originally sung by Des’ree way back in 1996 for the “Romeo + Juliet” soundtrack. There are more great moments to come, like the tango to the Police’s “Roxanne” and Zidler’s rowdy rendition of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin,” all choreographed expertly by musical director Keith Paraska.
There’s still time. Don’t be one of those people who will only wish they saw that one cool show on the Strip everybody was talking about.
“Baz” is presented at 8 p.m. Saturday through Tuesday and Thursday and at 9 p.m. Friday at the Palazzo Theatre (3325 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-607-7777). Saturday, July 28 is the final performance. Tickets and other information can be obtained at venetian.com.