Monday, June 24, 2019 | 2 a.m.
“Thunder from Down Under” is the longest-running and highest-grossing male revue in the history of the Las Vegas Strip. It’s also the show that provided the foundation for SPI Entertainment, one of the most eclectic and successful theatrical production companies in Las Vegas, currently producing Human Nature’s “Jukebox” at the Venetian, Boyz II Men’s residency at the Mirage, “The Australian Bee Gees Show” at Excalibur and “Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man” at Paris Las Vegas.
“We always want to elevate our game no matter what we’re doing. It’s just the nature of the beast, you want to evolve,” says SPI founder Adam Steck. “ ‘Thunder’ is the first show we brought here, to the Frontier in 2001, and there was nothing like it and it blew up. We’re really proud of it and we’re ready to evolve it.”
That evolution comes in the form of the recently announced 10-year extension for the show at the Excalibur and the Thunderland project, a $6 million renovation of the show and its showroom at the Excalibur that will be ready for action next month.
In recent months, both “Thunder” and “Bee Gees” have been performed in a temporary space on the Excalibur’s casino floor, a spot that will become a new bar and restaurant concept in the fall. Thunderland, located upstairs, will increase the venue capacity from 375 to 425 and modernize the space by adding three performance stages in addition to the main stage; advanced sound, lighting and special effects; and high-resolution, movable LED screens designed to turn the show into a completely immersive experience.
Those are the bigger elements. There are many smaller changes in the renovation that will help customize the room for the show, like tables with drink rails so nothing is spilled when a dancer climbs on top of it for an up-close-and-personal performance.
“We’ve learned over the years what our customers want,” Steck says. “All those thoughts of, ‘If I had the money, I could do this,’ or ‘I’d redesign that,’ now we’re getting to do all of that. Our show is already very interactive with the guys going into the crowd, and we have some of the most exciting crowds in Las Vegas. This is all about how do we elevate that.”
The show is getting bigger, too, with the cast increasing from eight to 13 — utilizing one of two touring productions by temporarily taking it off the road — and adding two more 11 p.m. shows on Thursdays and Sundays during peak times.
Thunderland will transform the show into a full experience by creating the Thunder Lounge where pre- and post-show programming will include meet-and-greets with the performers and special events for groups and bachelorette parties. The additional capability should also bolster the “Bee Gees” show, which will continue at the new venue at the 6 p.m. slot, and better serve a new magic production opening next month.
“Adam and the SPI team have done a tremendous job over the years of producing some of the most entertaining shows on the Strip,” said James Trudeau, vice president of entertainment booking for MGM Resorts. “We look forward to our extended partnership with SPI and are excited to deliver out castle guests a new entertainment experience in the Thunderland showroom.”
MGM owns and operates the Excalibur and the company’s partnership with SPI includes exclusive production rights at Thunderland. To maximize the space, Steck and his crew are bringing in internationally renowned magician Hans Klok to create a new show, “The World’s Fastest Magician,” performing nightly except Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
“They’ve never been able to do magic at the castle before because Criss Angel was always next door [at Luxor],” Steck says. “Now that restriction has been lifted. Hans is like the David Copperfield of Europe, and he’s been touring all over the world. We’re really excited about bringing his massive illusions to Excalibur and it’s been configured to fit in this intimate room.”