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October 20, 2017

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Photos: New theater nightclub ‘The Act’ at Palazzo plans to shock, excite


Tom Donoghue/

Construction is well under way for “The Act” at the Palazzo on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Robin Leach and owner Simon Hammerstein are pictured here.

After six successful years in New York and two huge hit years in London, club owner Simon Hammerstein is bringing his unique brand of shock-and-awe vaudeville to Las Vegas with new theatrical nightclub “The Act.” His other clubs are known as “The Box,” but he believed the new name necessary to show that he’s going beyond what they’re already known for in the industry.

Simon happily admits that it has been headlined “Bacchanal in a Box” and that nobody in live global entertainment has pushed the envelope as far as he has. “The Act” will open at the Palazzo on Oct. 27 after dress rehearsals for family and friends start Oct. 24. It will run Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. in its own third-level section above the atrium waterfall.

Simon has spent millions purchasing everything from a German cathedral to the old, shuttered Post Office in New York’s Grand Central terminal. When construction is completed at the end of this month, the decorators will install everything that’s in storage here.

He plans to fly in several of his most important and edgiest acts from the New York and London clubs for the initial 40 performers cast. Simon acknowledges that some audiences will be so shocked they will up and leave. “I welcome that because it means we’re doing what we wanted to,” he says.

“Call it an unholy wedding between theater and nightclub without human jukeboxes, plus cross dressing is optional. As a nightclub, we have the elements of a DJ and dancing, but as a theater we have the bizarre and never been seen before. Just come open-minded and nonjudgmental, and let it go from there.

Just how shocking, outrageous and dangerous is it? Check out this YouTube video from the New York club.

The Box

Imagine a striptease dancer doing her number in reverse by dressing with clothing plucked from various orifices of her body. Picture the work of art that extreme British artist Marc Quinn has been commissioned to place in the unique lobby entrance? (Warning: adult content.)

Marc Quinn

Marc made headlines at one exhibition with a sculpture of his head made with his own frozen blood drawn from his body over five months. Another exhibit was a frozen garden filled with plants held in cryogenic suspension. The large local art piece certain to create controversy will remain secret until Simon unveils it at the opening. I’ll get to the backstage warzone a little later, but stay tuned!

Vegas DeLuxe received an exclusive hard-hat tour, and I joined contributing photographer Tom Donohue, Simon and his managing director, Michael Myers, for the first advance peek. We entered through an ornate Victorian-looking circular lobby, and Simon fretted how he would fill the glass tanks.

“Snakes for the audience to feed? Piranha in a feeding frenzy? Whatever, it will be something deadly to set the mood right at the start,” he mused.

From that start, you’re confused entering an illusion to throw you off balance and appear lost and disoriented. You walk upward, but the muddled, molding trim rail goes downhill. Talk about feeling dazed, discombobulated and deranged from the get go. It’s a mish-mash, maze-like warren of conflicting colors and provocative patterns.

Construction Under Way for 'The Act'

Construction is well under way for Launch slideshow »

The first bar you reach appears in a second ante-chamber foyer that seems to float between the two floors of the club. There’s a total of 15,000 square feet over the two-level club, plus, the main stage and a second gyroscopic circular stage that will rise up in the face of the crowds.

As we stood on the stage, Simon explained: “We are not ‘The Box’ on steroids. But we’ve blown it up for our Las Vegas home entertaining 600 people, whereas the other clubs are for 200 each. It’s an evolution of putting the theater even more into the audience. We haven’t just broken the fourth wall; we’ve taken down the 6th wall.”

That warzone? There will be a glass walkway of a one-way mirror that lets audiences look in on the performers getting ready for the almost nonstop multiple shows through the night. Their green room behind the stage has another bar for customers in what he describes as “the warzone of a theater.”

Simon, who began orchestrating punk raves in London, added: “This is mayhem and chaos. When something wild happens onstage, the individual tables become like one in mad hysteria.”

Wondering about similarities, I asked if he’d seen “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace. He smiled and revealed that many of its performers were his earlier acts at “The Box.” “We’ve grown and advanced since then. Wait till you see what we have in store for Vegas. We aren’t a theater in a tent with one show a night. We are a nightclub with the ultimate in edgy entertainment all night long.”

We’ll post future reports at Vegas DeLuxe to chronicle the decorations and rehearsals at “The Act” in the weeks remaining to the Oct. 27 opening. As we left, he told me: “If you’ve never been to one of my clubs, you have never experienced anything like what will happen in this one.”

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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