Huge piece of Las Vegas Strip history makes a surprise comeback

The nature of entertainment on the Las Vegas Strip has changed. 

It was not that long ago that acts people would never spend money on anywhere else dominated the Strip.

Big-name headliners tended to be of the only-Las-Vegas variety. Some of that still exists as it’s hard to imagine Carrot Top, Wayne Newton and Donny Osmond being massive draws in other cities, but second-tier magic acts and other novelty performances have become less of a Las Vegas Strip fixture.

Related: Las Vegas Strip losing another long-running signature show

They have been replaced by some of the biggest names in entertainment. Caesars Entertainment  (CZR)  has Adele, Garth Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, and Rod Stewart.

MGM Resorts International  (MGM)  offers Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars while Wynn Resorts  (WYNN)  and Resorts World Las Vegas  (GEBHY)  also host huge, current mainstream acts.

These big-star residencies have supplanted a type of show that used to be a Las Vegas Strip staple — the Broadway-style, big-budget production. That change also meant the end of something many people still associate with Las Vegas, the showgirl.

Showgirls no longer exist on the Las Vegas Strip or at any venue in Las Vegas. Yes, women dressed as showgirls are selling pictures on the Strip, but those aren’t the highly trained dancers who appeared in long-running shows like “Folies Bergere” and “Jubilee.”

Image source: Shutterstock

Showgirl shows died a slow death

The death of the showgirl production occurred over about 20 years, with the most-popular shows slowly closing one by one.

“It wasn’t until the 1990s that the classic stage shows floundered — the winds of change had finally battered the historic productions,” Nevada Magazine reported.

“There were several reasons for this. The city had become more corporatized, and the hotels no longer supported the extremely costly shows. The productions had also become outdated and antiquated, and the draw of topless dancers was no longer attractive to audiences.”

It wasn’t just traditional showgirl productions that had not been able to succeed in Las Vegas. Broadway-style shows like “Bat Out of Hell,” an expensive musical based on the popular Meat Loaf album, and “Hamilton” creator Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Freestyle Love Supreme” both closed quickly.

The challenge is that these big-production shows simply aren’t the draw that U2 at the Sphere or any of the big-name residencies is. The bragging rights that come with seeing Adele or Bruno Mars do not come with paying similar money to see the Meat Loaf musical or a showgirls production.

Showgirls, however, will be — at least for a short run — be making their Las Vegas comeback.

Showgirl production making a Las Vegas comeback

“Follies,” a revival of one of Stephen Sondheim’s most popular productions, will have a six-show run that began April 11 and runs through April 14. It’s an impressive production, featuring 75 singers, dancers, actors and musicians on stage at a fairly modest venue.

The show will be running at the off-Strip Aliante Access showroom — a venue that hosts lower-tier entertainment including a Cher impersonator and an act that impersonates Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. There’s also an Abba tribute and a show that brings back the Rat Pack.

For a few nights, however, Aliante’s Access Showroom will host a show worthy of Las Vegas’s grand showgirl tradition.

“‘Follies,’ which features one of Stephen Sondheim’s most brilliant scores, tells the story of a famous impresario – (i.e., Florenz Ziegfeld, or in Las Vegas, Donn Arden or Jerry Jackson) who holds one last reunion of the casts of his annual ‘Follies’ productions before the theatre bearing his name is to be torn down to make room for a parking garage,” the producer wrote on the show’s website.

The plot is sort of a nod to Las Vegas’s history.

“On the stage of the old theatre, the performers gather for one more look back at their glory days, the grand music, lavish spectacles, the baggy pants comedians, and beautiful showgirls,” the company added.

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