Originally created 06/12/04

'Avenue Q' to have a second home in Las Vegas



NEW YORK -- Wayne Newton. Cirque du Soleil. Celine Dion. And now - "Avenue Q," the latest Las Vegas headliner.

The perky little Broadway show that Sunday won the 2004 Tony Award for best musical has decided to set up shop in the nation's gambling capital. It will play an open-ended engagement next year in a new theater located in a $2.5 billion resort and entertainment complex being built by Las Vegas entrepreneur Steve Wynn.

The musical had been expected to tour the country in 2005, particularly after winning the Tony, which is a potent marketing tool in selling a show on the road. But the Las Vegas offer from Wynn, who saw the show in New York in February, was too good to refuse, Kevin McCollum, an "Avenue Q" producer, said Thursday.

The only place audiences will be able to see "Avenue Q" will be New York or Las Vegas, according to the producer.

"The idea that we could be in a location (Las Vegas) that has an equal amount of visitors as New York - about 35 million in both cities - and to be affiliated with Steve, who basically reinvented entertainment in Las Vegas and where we can control the environment, where we can have a 1,200-seat theater which is right for our show, sold us," McCollum said.

"Plus 'Avenue Q' appeals to young adults and Steve is interested in young adults for his property."

Wynn declined to speak to The Associated Press but he told the Las Vegas Sun, "We can offer better theaters and better audiences than New York, and we can afford to take chances and try new things. (Musicals like 'Avenue Q') can help Las Vegas exploit its role as the real performing arts center. The more Las Vegas broadens itself, the stronger it is."

"Avenue Q," the raunchy, puppet-filled tale of young New Yorkers, was a surprise winner at the Tony Awards, taking the best musical prize, along with awards for book and score. The show, which opened on Broadway last July, already has returned its $3.5 million investment.

The Las Vegas edition, expected to arrived in the fall of 2005, will play in a $40 million theater located at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort and Country Club. The resort opens next April.

Other Broadway musicals have played Las Vegas including "Chicago and "Mamma Mia!" The ABBA musical, in fact, is a big hit there as well as on the road.

Left out of the "Avenue Q" mix are road producers and promoters, folks who were greeted last month by McCollum, his fellow producers and the "Avenue Q" cast at a pizza party in a theater-district restaurant.

"We love the road," McCollum said. "We had every intention of doing the road. But sometimes shows or personalities fit into new models. When we were looking at the road, the house are much larger, the costs of touring are tremendous and local expenses are tremendous.

"I am not convinced that our show would shine in a 4,000-seat theater where the stage and the audience are in two different ZIP codes. You have to be on the 'Avenue' to enjoy the show.

Yet some of those presenters were disappointed.

"I understand why they are doing it (playing Las Vegas), but it's heartbreaking because you want local audiences to actually see the show," said Jordan Fiksenbaum, director of theatrical presentations for the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia.

"Product is becoming harder to find," said Fiksenbaum, a big fan of the puppet musical. "I just hope it's not a trend. You're not making the show inclusive. You are making it exclusive."