Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Red Piano to Tour North America?

Elton John's celebrated "Red Piano" residency in Las Vegas has been a monster hit, and now it's getting ready for a trip around the world.

Beginning Nov. 19 in Birmingham, England, "Red Piano" will play in Liverpool and Manchester and also hit Germany, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. The international shows, booked by Keith Bradley at London-based Twenty-First Artists, follow today's release of "The Red Piano," a Best Buy exclusive available as a two-DVD/two-CD set in standard definition and Blu-ray, as well as a three-LP vinyl package. The project features the 14-song performance of the "Red Piano" show and a documentary about its creation.

During its Las Vegas residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, "Red Piano" has raked in about $140 million from more than 200 shows since 2004, according to John's camp. That's a honking $700,000 per night in gross ticket sales at a venue with a capacity in the 4,100 range.

The Colosseum may be the "house that Celine built," but it's clear that John has found a home at Caesars. He's got a permanent merchandise store in the sprawling hotel complex, and his presence (like that of the venue's other residents, Cher and Bette Midler) is everywhere. But even while blowing out the box office at Caesars, John has continued to tour the country to great success, with grosses of about $30 million this year. "The brand is stronger than ever," John's longtime agent Howard Rose says.

Hence the traveling version of "Red Piano," which cost some $2 million to $3 million, Bradley says. Acknowledging the expense and sweat equity of taking the production on tour, "The idea is to amortize it over more shows," he says.

"The original show was built and designed around a theater at the Colosseum, an extremely wide stage that was raked," Bradley says. "One of the things we considered when we looked at the room originally was scale, the size everything had to be. When we put the letter 'E' together, we used all the green neon gas that existed in North America at the time. We had to then think about how we do that for a traveling show."

Neon, as production managers know, doesn't travel particularly well. "When we toured it, we decided when we made the letters, which are obviously going up and down in the air all the time, to make them out of LED that just looks like neon," Bradley says. "That's much more expensive to manufacture but much more robust in terms of traveling."

John is committed to "Red Piano" shows in Vegas through April 2009. He owns the show and could take it on the road stateside if he so chose when Vegas is done. "After that point, we could actually move the touring system to anywhere on the continent or even take it further afield," Bradley says. "But it would take quite a few sea containers to move it, so once you land somewhere you need to be doing 15 or 20 shows to make it make any sense."

Rose says, "At this point there are no plans to come to North America with that show," adding it's a possibility "somewhere down the road, but not in the short term."

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