Curtain Up: Franco Dragone’s ‘Rise,’ Mondays Dark hits seven years and more Vegas showbiz news

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Steve Marcus

Cheryl Daro is in the lineup for this week’s Mondays Dark show.

Fri, Nov 20, 2020 (2 a.m.)

Franco Dragone, the Belgium-based founder of creative company Dragone and director and co-creator of groundbreaking Strip shows “Mystére,” “O,” Celine Dion’s original residency “A New Day” and “Le Reve,” is ready to return to Las Vegas in a big way.

His latest concept was showcased last week with a presentation at an off-Strip warehouse facility designed to find financial partners to assist the development of both a venue and show production titled “Rise.” A handful of acts set to live music included acrobatics performed on and around recycled shipping containers and construction equipment, and several out-of-work Las Vegas artists jumped on board to bring it to life.

“It was far better than what we could have expected,” Damien Long, director of creation at Dragone, says of the event. “'Rise’ is not just a show, it’s really kind of a movement we’ve been working on to spruce up entertainment throughout Las Vegas. The purpose here was to look at investors for the venue and signature show but also get the word out that Dragone is looking to make a statement and be back in Las Vegas.”

The “Rise” concept was born out of the pandemic. Initially Dragone started to plan a one-night show “out in the desert, in the middle of nowhere,” Long says, to bring local entertainers together and raise money and awareness of the community’s plight. But the idea grew to something bigger and more sustainable, a way to approach the creation of a Las Vegas show that could be performed outdoors at an adjustable, possibly mobile venue.

“It all goes back to how we can help keep entertainment going and bring something new to help bring it back to life,” Long says. “All the shows in Vegas are struggling right now to find ways to adapt their theaters, so rather than try to adapt, we thought about creating something new that could be an iconic statement for Las Vegas.”

The “Rise” venue would continue to make use of existing structures and materials in order to build in a cost-effective manner and Dragone has entered into preliminary talks with casino mogul Phil Ruffin’s team about using the vacant festival grounds space at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue. Ruffin acquired the plot when he purchased Circus Circus from MGM Resorts late last year.

Long says that would be the ideal location for the launch of “Rise,” but it’s too early to tell if it might work out. Ideally, Dragone’s company is shooting for a late spring launch, and “Rise” has a commitment to give back to the community with a portion of proceeds slated for the Composers Showcase Entertainment Community Relief Fund.

Long also addressed the rumor that Dragone is in talks with Resorts World to bring a new production show to that property, set to open next summer: “The only thing I can say is we are exploring every avenue possible to bring the Dragone brand back to Las Vegas, tapping into every possible resource we can to bring that level of entertainment back in a way that can be sustainable. For Franco, Vegas is his second home, it’s the place where he got his start with Cirque du Soleil and was able to start branching off with his own brand with Celine Dion and ‘Le Reve.’ We’re seeing all these theaters close down, big ones like ‘Le Reve,’ and thinking, how can we utilize those spaces to bring back sustainable entertainment?”

There’s a lot to keep track of here, so stay tuned. Elsewhere on the scene:

Mondays Dark will wrap up its 2020 shows on Monday, November 23 with a livestream at 8 p.m. (or you can attend in person for $50 if you can wrangle one of the few remaining tickets at mondaysdark.com) featuring the music of Pat Benatar and Blondie with performances by Sarah Hester Ross, Janien Valentine, Elyzabeth Diaga, Kelly Vohnn, Paige Strafella, Lynnae Meyers and the first lady of Mondays Dark, Cheryl Daro. The nonprofit beneficiary this week is the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth. Mark Shunock and company will continue the hybrid free livestream and ticketed-live-in-person plans for the seventh anniversary show on December 7 at 7 p.m., where next year’s 21 local participating charities will be announced and more funds will be raised for Mondays Dark through live and silent auctions. The lineup of entertainers for the big show will be announced soon.

The Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Public Radio will present “Theater on the Air: Live from Area 51” at 6 p.m. November 25 via live radio broadcast on KNPR 88.9 FM and streaming on knpr.org, an original production and throwback to classic radio dramas of the 1930s and ’40s. The score will be performed by Phil musicians De Ann Letourneau, Andrew Smith, Paul Firak, Alexandria Le and Patrick Bowen and appearing in the cast are Las Vegas performers Marcus Weiss, Destiny Faith, RJ Owens and Sabrina Cofield.

The “Sexxy” supper-club-style shows planned for the Hustler Club — mentioned last week in this column — have been pushed back a bit. Originally scheduled for November 19-21, the short and sultry series is now set for December 3-5. For more info, visit vegashustlerclub.com.

“Tentative” is the key word over at the V Theater and the Saxe Theater at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Six shows are tentatively scheduled to reopen at those venues on December 17 and tickets are on sale now for “V – The Ultimate Variety Show,” “The Mentalist,” “Nathan Burton Comedy Magic,” “Popovich’s Comedy Pet Theater,” “All Shook Up” and the Las Vegas Live Comedy Club. The Stripper 101 experience could resume at that time as well. Other productions including “Vegas! The Show,” “Zombie Burlesque” and “Hitzville” won’t return until early 2021, but proprietor David Saxe expressed concern this week that more mandatory closings could be headed our way, further delaying such comebacks.

Delirious Comedy Club at the Downtown Grand has expanded its show schedule, now offering 10 shows every weekend in the resort’s Fremont Room at 8 and 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday with additional 6 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday. For more info, visit deliriouscomedyclub.com.

A couple of interesting notes that came with the opening announcement of “Magic Mike Live” earlier this week: When the show is resurrected in a new theater at Sahara Las Vegas on March 26, it also launches a new ticketing policy wherein ticketholders unable to attend the show for any reason — illness, missed flight, terrible hangover — can reschedule for another performance or receive a full refund through the box office up to two hours before showtime. There will also be a new Magic Meet & Greet experience, a $55 add-on, allowing showgoers to visit the exclusive Alexandria Pool for an intimate visit with members of the cast, a signature cocktail and lots of photo opps. Tickets are on sale today at magicmikelivelasvegas.com.

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