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February 16, 2019

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Photos: ‘Rock of Ages’ at the Venetian will be nonstop drinking, dance party

'Rock of Ages' on Broadway

Paul Kolnik

Rock of Ages” on Broadway.

'Rock of Ages' on Broadway

Launch slideshow »

Not only will there be dancing in the aisles, but also drinking in the seats. In fact, some front-row seats will be removed so bars can be set up beside the stage, and the audience can keep the party going through the show.

“Rock of Ages” arrives at the Venetian next month, and it’s all about having a fun night out. It’s a party from start to … except the producers don’t want it to finish. It will continue from the showroom to the nearby Bourbon Room, where 1980s rockers and dancers welcome the cast to hang out and join in for more fun.

I flew to New York to see the Broadway cast of the musical to get an idea of what we should expect on the Strip in the former Blue Man Group theater.

The Las Vegas production will be trimmed to bring the curtain-to-curtain experience in less than 2 hours. It’s a 7-minute trim of one chorus and one reprise, as not one song will be cut. Two actors are being added to the Las Vegas run, which features a five-piece band onstage.

On the Great White Way, “Rock of Ages” plays in the intimate jewel-box Helen Hayes Theater with 597 seats. Here, the capacity is 1,166 seats; the fun party vibe will be kept intact by closing off the theater’s upstairs balcony.

“We double the fun and still keep the party rolling,” producer Scott Zeiger of BASE Entertainment told me. The musical features songs by Bon Jovi, Journey, Styx, Poison, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry and Pat Benatar. Rehearsals here began Monday. “Rock of Ages” will perform seven shows each week starting Dec. 18.

Kristin Hanggi, who was nominated for a 2009 Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical in her Broadway debut with “Rock of Ages,” also directs the musical at the Venetian.

“Rock of Ages” is the only Broadway import opening this winter here. Since its premiere in 2005 in L.A. and move to off-Broadway in 2008 and onto Broadway in March 2009, it received five Tony nominations. It had a short run at the Flamingo in May 2006 en route east. It also won rave reviews with sold-out productions in Toronto (2010) and London and Australia in 2011.

It spawned the movie version this summer with Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Las Vegas darling Julianne Hough. The live show is 100 times better than the movie; it’s far more fun because the theatrical experience makes audiences feel like they are inside the Sunset Strip’s legendary Bourbon Room.

'Rock of Ages' Screening After-Party

Adam Shankman, Padma Lakshmi and Julianne Hough at the Launch slideshow »

You are shoulder-to-shoulder with the performers jockeying for music fame and fortune or seeking to rediscover it. They are dancing in the aisles, too. You’ll love the way they break the fourth wall of theater and nearly “forget” their characters to talk to the audience. In fact, it serves to remind you that you are watching musical theater and not partying in a hot Hollywood bar.

The cast’s energy is supercharged. They obviously love the songs, the wild dancing and the script, which also is being refreshed for Las Vegas. The exuberant performers can really sing, dance and play great rock music. They show their love for their jobs by performing at max power; it couldn’t get any more fun if they tried.

Scott explained the show’s amazing success: “These are the anthems of our youth that speak to our hearts. It was a nostalgic time, and these were emblematic songs of importance to a generation. The show lets people re-live that time or pretend they are back at their prom.

“Now a new generation of young kids loves these yesteryear songs from 1986. We’ve created a real party environment because with this show, there’s a lot of celebrating.”

I guarantee you’ll have more fun in one night of theater than you’ve ever experienced singing, dancing and drinking along -- and all with the blessing of cast and producers. This show is about to kick some party ass on the Strip. I’m going for one more tequila -- cheers!

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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