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Preview: David King’s ‘Dancing Queen’ dances and jives into Planet Hollywood on Friday night


Tom Donoghue/

Rehearsal for David King’s “Dancing Queen,” which premieres at Planet Hollywood on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.

Rehearsal for ‘Dancing Queen’ at Planet Hollywood

Rehearsal for David King's Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Rehearsal for David King's "Dancing Queen," which premieres at Planet Hollywood on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.

Click to enlarge photo

Rehearsal for David King's "Dancing Queen," which premieres at Planet Hollywood on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.

Click to enlarge photo

Rehearsal for David King's "Dancing Queen," which premieres at Planet Hollywood on Friday, Sept. 13, 2013.

Less than three months after “Dancing Queen” was forced to leave New York-New York so that MGM Resorts execs could demolish Broadway Theater to make way for the new sports stadium entranceway being built there, the show returns to the Strip bigger and better than ever.

British producer David King pulled off the miracle move, and “Dancing Queen opens Friday night in the former “Peepshow” mezzanine showroom at Planet Hollywood. Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue, who shot dress rehearsals for our photo gallery.

I talked with David in between workouts.

In a nutshell, tell me what “Dancing Queen” was and now what it will be.

The show was in a small cabaret venue — it was lovely but a small production for an older audience, really. What we’ve done is moved onto one of the biggest stages in Las Vegas. We’ve completely rebuilt the show for Planet Hollywood, and now we can fit 30 people into it, whereas it was only 10 or 12 before. It’s an entirely different show; it’s full of energy, plenty of the best dancers in town.

We brought out our English choreographers, and they’ve done an amazing job. It’s a fabulous set. There’s projection, video; it’s everything a big, sparkly Vegas show should have. That’s the completely opposite end of the scale that it was in New York-New York.

We still feature ABBA’s greatest hits as before, but a new 50 percent of the show is the biggest disco hits of the ’70s and ’80s: “I Will Survive,” “Disco Inferno,” “YMCA,” “It’s Raining Men.” It’s just a great big fun show and the only one on the Strip where there’s not an acrobat or bungee jumper in sight — just full-on entertainment, amazing songs, great singers, fantastic dancers, brilliant special effects. Everybody will have a good time and leave feeling totally exhilarated!

Sounds like you may have audiences dancing in the aisles?

Absolutely! We want people up, we want them to have a good time. We believe it’s a big party show, and we want people to join in. Part of the fun is dancers coming off the stage two or three times during the show, and they get the audience up to dance along with them. It’s just a young buzz, happy party atmosphere for all ages. It probably now works out to be 40 percent ABBA hits and 60 percent the other hits. That’s a great balance.

You’ve expanded the cast to 30 now, David?

About 30 with the swings, six singers, about 18 dancers onstage, about 30 people altogether. Before, we only had room for 12. The Planet Hollywood stage is a big area, and we’ve filled it. We brought a cast that’s going to do justice to its size.

To expand the cast, did you pull singers and dancers from rival Las Vegas shows?

Yes. We wanted to do that because we’d been in the other venue; we wanted a fresh energy. We re-auditioned for everybody and wound up keeping only one English girl; everybody else is new. They all come from other shows, and they’re all really excited to be in this show at Planet Hollywood. It’s the venue that’s attracted them. We’ve got some amazing singers and dancers, all from Las Vegas. The locals are absolutely great.

If this goes well, as we hope it will, we’ll be talking about bringing in other shows. As you know, we’ve got a lot of shows we produce around the world from England to Monaco to China and across America. We’ll see how it goes with this one. It’s a big show; it’s a big gamble, as well. We’ve got to be able to sell the tickets, and if the town wants the show and if we do well, then we’ll pull in other shows.

So I’ve reported that the hotel will announce next Tuesday that Britney Spears will start her residency there, too, by year’s end. Are you going to welcome her as a neighbor? Is she competition? Is it a perfect match for her crowd and your crowd?

We looked at this very carefully because we knew Britney is scheduled to come. I love her but came to the conclusion that our audience is not particularly her audience. I love the fact that she’s such a huge star coming into the building because of the attention that would attract thousands of people. We hope we can cross sell to some of her audience, but we don’t see it as direct competition.

We think our crowd is going to be a little bit older, but we’re very happy she’s coming. Meat Loaf is there, as well, at the same time, so all of us are totally different, but yet we all sync together well for Planet Hollywood. The more, the better. The more big stars in that building, the more I like it.

Looks as if you couldn't have arrived at a better time — right alongside Britney and Meat Loaf and a series of other big names to follow him.

It’s fantastic — what great company to be in! I would rather be there than in a random casino on our own somewhere with nobody else. Planet Hollywood is at the heart of the Strip and is now the center of the universe for us.

And there is room there for you to bring in other shows?

If the Meat Loaf concept goes well, and I hope it does, then they’ll bring other big names in for short bursts to continue his three-times-a-week time slots. Other time slots are open to us. There’s a late-night slot for maybe an adult show, there’s a late afternoon slot for one of our older shows, a Broadway show or something like that. It’s very exciting and full of possibilities. We’re thrilled to be here. It’s an amazing opportunity, and, as you said, it’s a great time to be there. What could be better than being in the same building as Britney Spears and Meat Loaf with “Dancing Queen”? It’s brilliant!

Pick for me one or two highlights of “Dancing Queen.”

We do a fantastic Village People segment with “YMCA,” “Macho Man” and “Go West.” Fabulous costumes, lively fun, audience clapping along, singing along. There’s all the other big stuff; of course, there’s “Mamma Mia,” “Dancing Queen,” “Waterloo,” plus, massive disco hits “Disco Inferno,” “Car Wash,” “Celebration” and “It’s Raining Men.” “I Will Survive” is one of the big closing numbers with a fantastic sultry Latin American Gloria Estefan finale where everybody’s up dancing and shaking.

It’s just great! It’s vibrant and full of life, and I think the people of Las Vegas are going to love it. Even in our dress rehearsals, we have the crew, workers and theater staff dancing along; it’s that infectious! It’s a nonstop 75 to 80 minutes, perfect time before the cast runs out of energy and voices! These are massive hits from the 1970s and ’80s that are as fresh today as they were then.

Even my daughters, who range in age from 17 to 35, know every single lyric and are singing and dancing to them. They’ve obviously all stood the test of time. The music is fantastic; everybody knows the words. It’s fun … everybody will enjoy it with a real high.”

“Dancing Queen” opens at Planet Hollywood on Friday and plays nightly Wednesdays through Mondays (dark Tuesdays). Check show times for either 9 or 9:30 p.m. performances.

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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