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'Phantom' to play Las Vegas

| Tuesday, July 27, 2004

LAS VEGAS -- "The Phantom of the Opera," one of the most successful shows in the history of Broadway, has been lured to the desert with the promise of a lavish new theater and a seemingly endless stream of tourists.

Clear Channel Entertainment will produce a 90-minute, $35 million version of the Tony Award-winning musical, set to open in the spring of 2006 at the Venetian hotel-casino, according to a source familiar with the hotel's negotiation.

"This is a permanent theatrical installation," the source told The Associated Press.

"Phantom," the latest Broadway show to play Las Vegas, will perform in the space previously occupied by the Guggenheim Las Vegas museum, which closed in January 2003. The casino will pay for the theater's refitting, which is expected to cost about $25 million, the source said.

The musical, with a score by Andrew Lloyd Webber, is expected to get a flashy makeover, one that includes an exploding chandelier and a bigger stage and set pieces.

The Las Vegas production will be directed by Harold Prince, who directed the original 21/2 hour version which opened on Broadway in 1988. It is still playing there and in London. A touring edition is currently in Minneapolis and will move on to Baltimore, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Tampa, Fla., later this year.

While "Phantom" is given new life in Las Vegas, The Venetian gets that marquee attraction it has been searching for since the larger of its two Guggenheim museums shut down.

"The Phantom of the Opera" is the latest Broadway hit to make its way to Las Vegas as casino companies post record earnings and the city is on track to break its previous all-time mark of 35.8 million visitors, set in 2000.

The Tony Award-winning musical "Avenue Q" will begin performances in September 2005 at the Wynn Las Vegas resort. "Mamma Mia!" has played at Mandalay Bay hotel-casino since February 2003.

The producers of "We Will Rock You" -- the London musical incorporating the songs of Queen -- announced last month that the show would make its North American debut in August as part of an extended engagement at the Paris Las Vegas hotel-casino.

"Saturday Night Fever" also has an open-ended run at the Sahara hotel-casino. The musical thrived in London, but found less success and unflattering reviews in New York before closing in 2000.

A movie version of "Phantom" is scheduled for December release. The film, directed by Joel Schumacher, stars Scottish actor Gerard Butler as the Phantom, Emmy Rossum as Christine and Patrick Wilson as the dashing Raoul.

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