Las Vegas: One Hot Mamma?

The shows that become Vegas staples--think Siegfried and Roy and Cirque du Soleil--dazzle guests, then dump them at the blackjack tables. Tourists here don't like to sit still. But next month Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino will stage a $7 million production of the ABBA musical "Mamma Mia!" a Broadway import that runs more than two hours and will be the only show in Vegas with an intermission. New York stalwarts like "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Rent" failed in Vegas; "Chicago" was a modest success--but with locals, not visitors. "The spectacle of Broadway isn't the same as the spectacle of the Strip," says executive producer Rick Garman. "Vegas is not a place where you want to pay attention to plot." But "Mamma Mia!'s" plot is easy to ignore, which is why Mandalay thinks it will be a hit. The story is a thinly veiled excuse for staging catchy tunes in that over-the-top, Sin City style. Still, the touring production of the show made two extended visits to nearby Los Angeles and has played in 25 U.S. cities a year for the past two years. Garman wonders if tourists will spend their vacation dough on a show they can see elsewhere, since most visitors crave those only-in-Vegas experiences. Mandalay likes the odds. "Given that the content of the show is light and brisk," says Mandalay Resort Group president Glenn Schaeffer, "it has every feature that would spell success for the Las Vegas Strip."