BWW Turns its Spotlight on Vegas: A Chat with Michael Gill
RD: Let's start, if you don't mind, with some basic questions for the people who might not know who you are...
RD: What first got you interested in theatre?
MG: Oh my God...I've never thought about this question, but let me take a second. It was something that I was always attracted to, interestingly enough, never on the performance side, but always on the back stage side. When I was a kid my parents took me up to see the '64-'65 World's Fair and then we saw Golden Boy with Sammy Davis Jr., at the Majestic Theatre. All I remember about it is that I was 6 or 7 at the time and I didn't want to go, because in those days you got very dressed up to go to the theater. When we arrived, the thing that stood out in that show for me was that there was a playground set where everything was on track from the floor and so a swing came from stage left and a sliding board came up from stage right and something else came on from upstage, and they all sort of collided magically. I knew that it wasn't being pushed on by a person because you couldn't see anybody but it all sort of happened, and I pondered that moment for months after that. I would say that if I had to point to any one thing, that would have probably sparked my interest as much as anything.
RD: Were you raised in the New York area?
MG: I was raised in the Amish country of Pennsylvania.
RD: Where did you go to school?
MG: I went to the local public school, local high school and then I went to Syracuse University for my Bachelors Degree.
RD: Me too.
MG: You did?
MG: There you go. I actually graduated from the Newhouse School in Television and Radio. How about you?
RD: I graduated from the Information Management School. So, that was your major there?
MG: Yes, Television and Radio production.
RD: How did you end up getting from there into theatre management?
MG: Well actually, even though I was in TV/Radio, I always intended to go into theatre on the management side. When I was in college in the late 70s there wasn't a producing or management degree back then, like there is now. There was a theatre management class, and I think that was about it, so the television degree gave me a lot more marketing and advertising classes and things I was interested in. While I was in college I got a job working at on the stage crew at Valley Forge Music Fair, quite close to where I grew up.
I remember the first show that came through was a production of The Merry Widow with Roberta Peters and Vernon Klemperer. That was in just my first week there. Here's a funny theatre story: the second stage manager who back then was called the show's tech, sort of like a crux between a TD and a stage manager, bolted before the last performance of the show because the FBI had come knocking on the stage door looking for him because he was a wanted felon. The crew turned to me, and said 'okay we need to leave tomorrow with this show' and they pointed to me and they said, 'hey you kid, can you go?' I said 'sure,' because I didn't know any better and I didn't even know what the job entailed. But I went and we toured the rest of that summer and I toured with their productions for a few summers after that, up till the time I left college. That sort of got my foot in the door professionally so to speak.
Doing this for three summers got me my Equity card as a stage manager and when I graduated from Syracuse I moved to NYC, called my boss from the Music Fair Days and said "I'm looking for a job, I'm here." Within a week of moving to New York, I was hired as the assistant company manager on a Broadway show called Barnum. Looking back on that, I realize how unbelievably lucky and fortunate I was to move to New York and to be working on a show almost instantly because now we get hundreds of resumes of college kids looking for a break into the industry somehow. Back then, well, I just didn't appreciate how fortunate I was. In hindsight I'm very appreciative of my good fortune.
RD: It sounds like a lot of luck at least till this point in the story!
RD: What other shows did you work on in NY?
MG: Well, aftr Barnum I worked on Lena Horne, the Lady and Her Music, which is a great Lena Horne concert that happened during the early 80s. I also worked on Is There Life After High School?, The Life of Jamie Foster, Snoopy, and Doonesbury. By that point in time, I was no longer assistant company manager, I became a company manager and I did a couple of road tours. I did the tour of Zorba, with Anthony Quinn, I did the west coast production of La Cages Aux Folles and then I came back to NY and finished the Broadway production of La Cages Aux Folles and did a tour of Stop the World with Anthony Newley (1987-1988 tour). I did the Broadway production of Macbeth with Christopher Plummer and Glenda Jackson and then I guess right after that came The Phantom of the Opera, which was a good 10 years of my life. Then came Chicago on Broadway and, after that, the Annie Get Your Gun revival with Bernadette Peters.
RD: Do you have any favorite celebrity tales, experiences or other stories from your New York days?
MG: Well it's hard to beat The Phantom of the Opera, because it was, and continues to be, just a mega hit, and I feel like I was blessed to be working on such a popular and successful production. It had its own set of interesting problems, the biggest of which is that there weren't enough house seats. There wasn't enough VIP seating to accommodate all the important people that wanted to come see our show. For the first 8 years, we were always sold out at full price, and we did just enough advertising just to make sure people knew that we were still there, but we didn't even have to advertise that much. Again, I feel blessed that I could manage such a hit show. Those certainly weren't the years in which I worked the hardest. I mean I cared a great deal but it was so successful that you didn't have to put your marketing hat on very often.
RD: What was it was like working with the original cast of that show?
MG: Well, it was fantastic, I mean the show opened with Sarah Brightman for the first five months and Michael Crawford was there for the first eight months. I remember that Michael left us, I believe the date was October 8th, 1988 and I remember that because there was such a flurry of people trying to buy tickets for that performance, it was unbelievable. I mean it was great because it came pre-graded from London's West End as a bona fide hit, so there weren't any expectations other than that it was going to be a hit in the United States. It was a joy to work with every single person, Hal Prince, Gillian Lynne, we were all sort of basking in the production's great success, and it was a pleasure on every level.
RD: Were there any lessons that you've learned from your experience in New York City that come to mind when you think back?
MG: I would say that each show brought a new set of challenges and a new set of circumstances. For the 15 or 17 shows I did in NY, every single time taught me something new as the industry changed and union rules changed and marketing techniques changed. Things also changed via the Internet, especially with the use of the computerized box office, and I kept learning. When I started, box offices were still into hard tickets, (in the late 70s early 80s) and that was the way that we did our box office procedures. I had to change with the times and to get used to computerized box office setups. I loved learning all those things, and I'm still learning them. I think that if you're a good manager, you can acknowledge that you've got to change with the times, you've got to change with technology, with new marketing techniques, with what audiences want to see, with what the audience will accept and what they won't accept, if you're interested in having a commercially successful production. My biggest lesson learned is to not get set in my ways, and certainly no bigger lesson can be learned than that of me coming to Las Vegas, where I basically had to throw out every single thing I learned back in NYC and start over.
Chicago_175.jpg" />RD: What was it that brought you to Las Vegas?
MG: It actually was the show Chicago. I was working on the Broadway company of Chicago and I was standing in the office of the producers, Barry and Fran Weissler one day and overheard that the first national tour was on, and the itinerary was going to go to Japan for three months and Russia for three weeks and I said 'gee I'd like to do that!' I was in my early 40s and they sort of thought I was not interested in running out on the road and I said 'listen, you know I'm looking for interesting challenges in my life and to go to Japan and Russia with the show, would be of interest to me.' So I went out on the road with Chicago. As it happened, halfway through the tour my itinerary changed: Japan and Russia got dropped and Las Vegas got added. I remember that phone call, and that I was quite angry that I had left my home in New York to go out on the road only to end up in Las Vegas. I had a very negative connotation of Vegas at that point in time, and I said, "Listen I'll go to Vegas, I'll get it opened and then I want to come home after that," and they said "Fine" and this show, originally scheduled for 12 weeks, was instead getting extended over and over.
Within a month, I knew that Las Vegas was a place in which I could really live a very comfortable life. The quality of life here is really great, away from the Strip. I think that a lot of people may think of Las Vegas as only Las Vegas Boulevard, with all the casinos on the Strip but the truth is, life away from the Strip is really fantastic. It's a very small town and it has some unique big city features. The fact that the casinos have their employees working at all times of the day and night means that every supermarket in the outlying areas, every drugstore, every health club is open 24/7 and those are great little features for someone like me that works kind of crazy theatre hours. So, it was within a month after coming with Chicago that I'm like, 'well, you know what? I'm going to move here!' It was not as a career decision, because I didn't know after Chicago how I was even going to support myself, but it was more of a life decision. It has turned out to be an unbelievable career decision as fate would have it, and now I'm sort of the 'go-to' guy in terms of bringing Broadway guys to Las Vegas. I'm somebody who has learned the hard way, about the systems and the personnel within the casino industry and what they expect out of shows and how to get a show booked. A lot of Broadway executives still throw up their hands when they think of Las Vegas. They really don't even know where to start or what kind of deal to strike, or how the economics work out here, and I'm, for lack of a better word, a good translator. I translate for Broadway and casino folks so they can talk to each other and they'll know how to strike a deal.
RD: What were your first impressions of the Vegas entertainment scene?
MG: When I came in 1999 with the show Chicago, I realized that I hadn't been there in 15 years. Well, I didn't even recognize the town first of all. Just physically, the town had grown to such a degree that I was shocked about how it had become much more sophisticated. When I moved here, a lot of celebrity chefs were opening restaurants and I think that in the six or seven years that I've been here, that it's only grown to a frightening degree. I think that there are more celebrity chef restaurants here than probably any other city in the U.S. at the moment, and the number of high-end hotels that keep opening like the Bellagio, Venetian, and Steve Wynn's new property is astounding. No longer is it about the 99-cent buffet, all you can eat buffets and sort of cheesy showgirl entertainment. It is and has become a very high-end town.
RD: What was it that made you decide to stay in Las Vegas after Chicago?
MG: I was looking for something new in my life and I am a warm weather kind of guy. I love the climate here, and I like the fact that it's a rather small town. Away from the strip, it has a sort of small town feel.
RD: How far from the strip are you living?
MG: I'm about 15 minutes away and that's what's interesting. No matter where you are in Las Vegas, you always have a mountain range off in the vista that you can look at and I love that. I also love the fact that, aside from the strip, everything is built low to the ground so you can see the mountains no matter where you are and there's a sense of open air space and freedom. I made New York City work for me and I worked there for over 20 years but I can tell you that I'm much happier and much more comfortable living in Vegas. Again, I just took a gamble, and my gut reaction was that this was a town I liked and I'll figure out what to do here. I didn't know, while back in NY, that I could get a job here doing that. Right about the time I came in '99, a lot of casinos became more and more interested in not self-producing shows but bringing in outside shows and getting experts to help them to produce shows. So I was here, at the right place and at the right time. Some of my colleagues say "Oh gee you were smart to see this trend" but I say to everybody that I wasn't smart, I didn't see the trends, I just happened to move here for life reasons. I just happened to be at the right place, at the right time.
RD: What was your first Vegas job after Chicago?
MG: I was hired by Blue Man Group for a year to help them get set up and run it and that led to a show, called Storm which led to another original musical, based on John Grey's book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. It was turned into a musical and I ran it for about a year. That led to our local production of Tony and Tina's Wedding, and after that we did a production of Always...Patsy Cline and that led to Mamma Mia! which now has led me back to The Phantom of the Opera. That's dual worlds intersecting here! I never thought that I'd be involved with a production of Phantom again, but here I am working on it and it's awesome. Never say never. I'm also producing and managing a Vegas production of Hairspray and we probably have 3 or 4 other big projects in the works for Vegas.
RD: Can you talk to us about those?
MG: There's a couple I can talk about. I'm working on a project with the creators of Riverdance, and all I can say is it's a huge departure from what Riverdance is. It's something that's way out on a limb, has nothing to do with Irish dance whatsoever, and I'm working with them on that. It's quite a large production and I think that it's going to be budgeted at around $80 million dollars, specifically for Las Vegas. That's probably the largest one that we're working on and there are also a lot of Broadway shows that we're working with and are hoping to bring to Las Vegas. I'm an Associate Producer on The Wedding Singer, which is coming to Broadway and I specifically got on board because I think that The Wedding Singer would be a good fit for Las Vegas.
RD: What do you think makes that show, or any show, a good fit for Las Vegas?
MG: The broad based entertainment appeal. When Broadway producers come to me and say, 'I have a show. Is it right for Las Vegas?' my response to them is 'I don't know, is it right for Des Moines or Kansas City?' If it would play well in those 2 cities then yes, it's a good fit for Las Vegas. By that I mean that entertainment options must reach mid-America. Something too specific or specialized or too book-heavy probably wouldn't work well here. While the travel shows we watch on TV, I know, love to air segments featuring of the beautiful Hollywood crowd partying at the Ghost Bar at the Palms Hotel, the truth is most of the peak tourists who come to Las Vegas are from mid-America and from smaller towns and that's who you really have to reach if you want a long term commercial success in Las Vegas. We look for things that are up and fun and light and that can reach a wide demographic and a leisure / party atmosphere.
RD: How do you think a Vegas audience differs from a NY audience or a London audience?
MG: People come here not for the theatre experience necessarily, but they come for an entertainment experience. They want to have fun, no matter what that means and sometimes fun can be a spectacle, like with the bigger Cirque productions out here, or fun can be just a really good time, like Mamma Mia!, and the fantastic ending that Mamma Mia! has. I think that there's an expectation difference, that in Vegas the expectation is that you're going to see something maybe a little more fun or light-weight than you might see in a traditional West End or Broadway experience.
RD: And do you feel, given the heavy tourist base, a variance in audiences from night to night? Are they good, bad, or dramatically different from performance to performance?
MG: Well, I think that Vegas is a town where people come to have a good time, we find that the audiences tend to be more responsive here than on Broadway. For one thing, every theatre in Las Vegas has a cup holder, where you're allowed, and in some cases encouraged, to bring a drink in with you because that's part of the enjoyment, that's part of the experience. I'm not saying that our crowds are all drunk, but let's say that they're a little more primed for having a good time, and that often translates to our crowds being more vocal.
RD: Do you have an opinion on the idea of trimming shows down for Vegas, and how does that begin?
MG: Well, I think that you shouldn't trim down a show if it's in some way going to jeopardize the integrity of what made it a show to begin with. When we trimmed down Hairspray, I remember our very first meeting with the writers and the creative staff, and I know they were very concerned that they didn't want us to take out the 'heart of the piece,' as the writers called it. I'm not asking anybody to take the heart out of a piece. In fact, I think that would be exactly the wrong thing to do, but if there's a way to take out bits and pieces of the show that you honestly feel do not affect the characters, the dramatization, the storyline...then let's do it. In fact, the Hairspray team found that, I think, to be a rather easy task. They all had ideas of what could go, without these stories being jeopardized. So my opinion is, if you can find a way to do it that doesn't hurt the original integrity of the piece, then why not?
RD: Who makes that sort of decision? Is it a committee, producer...?
MG: Well, I think the idea that a show should be of a certain length starts with the casinos and the producers, and then the ultimate decision rests with the writers and the director. It's got to be, "Do you, the writers and director of the creative team, think that you can achieve this goal?" And if you can't, we shouldn't even start down this process. If we can, then let's do it. It starts at one level, and ultimately rests on the shoulders of the original writing team.
RD: If they're sort of resistant to trimming the show, does that make it a deal breaker, or is there room for negotiation?
MG: It probably makes it a deal breaker.
RD: Does that help with the running costs as well? I know that, for example, on Broadway when they cut down seventeen minutes out of Les Miz, it had financial benefits for the producers. Does that same thing apply to unions in Las Vegas?
MG: It absolutely does, both for the actors' union and the stagehands' union, if you're longer than ninety minutes, A certain salary will buy you eight shows a week. If you're ninety minutes or less, that exact same salary will buy you ten shows per week. Adding two shows per week makes a huge difference to your bottom line, so there's definitely a financial ramification here.
RD: Just for our readers, how do salaries for a performer compare between Vegas and Broadway?
MG: Well, they're becoming more and more comparable. Traditionally, Vegas was a much lower salary. I'd say it was a good 20% to 25% (or so) less. In recent years, I think that all unions have made strides toward getting the salaries somewhat equal to those paid on Broadway. Certainly in the last couple of negotiations that we've had with the various unions for Hairspray and Phantom, the salary range is not quite, but almost, equal to production contract salaries.
RD: Is that all Equity performers, or does that vary?
MG: Well it goes show by show. I mean the shows that I'm involved with are all union shows, so yes, Equity actors, union stagehands, and union musicians. We tend to work only on union productions.
RD: Are the performers on those shows doing ten shows a week?
MG: That's depending on the show, but usually yes. Mamma Mia! is full length, and it's the only show in Las Vegas, at the moment, that's longer than ninety minutes that hasn't been hurt by that fact. I think that we cling to the unique appeal of the ABBA music as to the reason why, and it's the only show, out of seventy-four shows currently running, that's longer than ninety minutes.
RD: I've heard that when shows are done in Vegas there are many specialty people - singers, dancers, climbers, etc. Is that actually the case? Are there people that just sing, or just dance, as opposed to the triple-threats that are becoming the norm on Broadway?
MG: I would say that's a very good representation of a lot of the talent here, although that's changing to some degree. When I first moved here, I said that the town was full of 'single threats,' because they have some unbelievable dancers who might not be the best singers, and we have some unbelievable singers that might not be the best dancers. That's the way Vegas shows were traditionally compartmentalized, and that's also the way Broadway was at one point in time. There was a dancing ensemble, there was a singing ensemble; that's the way Broadway shows were originally structured. I think that's certainly changed on Broadway and I think it's changing here. As more and more Broadway shows come here, and the ones we manage along the lines of Hairspray certainly, you have to be a triple-threat. Every single person on that stage is a triple threat, and so, as more and more shows open, I think that more and more actors are calling Las Vegas home. Therefore, I think the talent pool has changed, and continues to change.
RD: How can you tell if you have a hit show in Las Vegas? Is it based on the advance, the daily wrap? What's the gauge here?
MG: Nightly attendance. There almost is no 'advance' on Las Vegas shows. An interesting statistic that's published by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority says that 80% of the visitors who come to Las Vegas see at least one show, and 70% of those people don't make up their minds until they land. That means that with the average stay, at three and a half days, that seventy percent of your ticket sales will happen inside of 48 hours of any given performance. Now, for somebody like me, coming from the Broadway world, and used to doing forecasts - three months, six months, a year down the line for my producers, it's impossible to do a forecast here, because you're not sold more than 48 hours out. So, this is one of those things I'm referring to when I talk about throwing out everything that I learned in New York and starting over. This is certainly one of those instances. You cannot judge what business is going to be like next week. You can sort of look at hotel room occupancy, and judge from who has booked hotel rooms, but you can't guess, necessarily, how that's going to translate into ticket sales for yourself. You just have to let go and hope that it will be ok and it almost always is.
RD: So when do you decide when it's time to 'pull the plug' on a show?
MG: That's usually a joint decision between the casino and the producers of a show. Our shows are unique, I think, in that we all have total partnership deals with the casinos that we're in, but it's usually a financial decision, certainly just like on Broadway. If the show's not making its weekly expenses, somebody's got to foot the bill for that. And so if either the show's investors or the casino is unwilling to foot that bill, then the only business decision is that you have to close. So, yes, it is a financial decision, but sometimes casino shows stay open just for the sake of image, and they're willing to underwrite the operating losses just to have a show stick around, so that it won't create a bad image for the casino.
RD: Everybody knows that there are risks these days involved with investing and producing in New York, in terms of the chances of making your investment back. Is that the same or different with hotels? What are those economics like?
MG: Well, I'd say that entertainment as an industry is certainly a risky proposition, no matter where you are. I think that the risks are less in Las Vegas because basically casinos are looking for shows to come in 'pre-branded' as hits. I think all of the shows that we have going up into production, both Hairspray and Phantom for example, they're all proven winners, and they all made their money back on Broadway. That certainly was a deciding factor in the casinos wanting to book these shows. If you're bringing in a proven hit, chances are that it's also going to be successful here in Las Vegas. I think just because it's part of what drives the booking of a show that has it been successful elsewhere. The risk factor then gets minimized for Vegas.
RD: It's sort of been talked about a bit to death, but is there anything about Avenue Q's lack of success that you'd like add to or comment on?
MG: No, I don't… I have no professional comment on that. I'm very fond of that show, and very sad to see that it didn't run here.
RD: What are group sales like on average? Do you see large groups out here?
MG: Surprisingly enough, no. I think people mistakenly think, "Oh there's so much convention business, you must get a ton of groups," while the truth is it just does not translate into the same sort of group sales figures that I'm used to seeing on Broadway. I mean, if you think about it, the conventioneers are stuck at a convention or at an event all day long, and when they get out at night, they probably won't want to be locked in some showroom somewhere. They want to go out dining, or drinking, or gambling or whatever - socialize with their friends - something more active than just sitting down in a room, even if it's watching a show. I would say that in Vegas, group sales count for, I think, 2.5%-5% of our overall ticket sales. On Broadway I'd say that number's much higher - anywhere from 10%-20% of your overall ticket sales.
RD: When you view the overall entertainment market these days, do you think that Vegas is shifting more toward family entertainment again...or more towards the kind of stuff we're now seeing on HBO's Taxi Cab Confessions?
MG: (laughing) Well, I think that Vegas is swinging back to adult entertainment, no question about it. Whatever that brief run was where there was a perception that Vegas was trying to lure families...I think is definitely no longer here. And I think the now-infamous slogan, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," is all about adults setting themselves free, and having a fun, wild time. And while there are certain properties in town that sort of cater to families, Circus Circus definitely being one of those properties...I think for the most part casinos are looking for adults, because that's who really has the disposable income for gaming.
RD: When shows that are on tour stop in Las Vegas, do only locals go?...or do tourists attend these touring productions as well?
MG: I'd say that's almost exclusively locals. Probably those tours have gone through tourists' home-towns, and people when they come here typically look for something that they haven't seen before, or something that's exclusive to Las Vegas.
RD: How is that differentiated in the local press? Do the local papers cover the local tours more or differently than the Vegas shows, or the Strip shows?
MG: There's definitely tourist publication magazines that cater just to tourism which are probably in the majority of the hotel rooms, and when you walk in, you find those publications sitting on your coffee table, or the night stand. The Broadway tours that come in for one or two week stops, don't bother to advertise in those publications, because they realize that they're not going to get very many tourists anyway. They probably know that the Broadway tours really target in on local newspapers and getting to just locals.
RD: Okay, getting back to talking about the shows that you're working on at the moment. How is Hairspray going?
MG: Very well as a matter of fact, I couldn't be happier. I just think that it's an unbelievably great production. We were blessed to have both Jack O'Brien and Jerry Mitchell come back and recreate their own work. Jack's the director; Jerry, of course, is the choreographer and I'm quite proud of the production. We were able to stay true to the original intent of the show and we were able to give it a little bigger 'finish.' Again, one of my directives to the creative team was, "I don't want to change your show, but I'd like you guys to give me something extra, right at the very end...a little Vegas finale if you will" And they were able to achieve that. We have quite a little 'moment.' I can't really disclose what that is, but it's definitely a Vegas moment at the very end of our show.
RD: How much or how little can you tell us about the new Phantom?
MG: I can just say that it's going to be bigger than any version of Phantom you've ever seen. It is, and I think this has been well publicized, a $35 million dollar production. Also, it's been a while since we launched a new production of Phantom, but I think that the last most expensive tour of Phantom in the U.S. was $12 million dollars. I can tell you that the extra money is being spent on the physical production to beef up some of the moments, make them bigger and more spectacular. The show is definitely not going to be untrue to the original, nor untrue to the spirit of how Hal Prince and his collaborators originally created the show. But our tag line is that it's going to be Phantom...as you've never seen it before and we think that we're going to deliver on that.
RD: And how involved is the creative team at the moment?
RD: Are there any specifics that you can give about changes or the cuts at the moment?
MG: That's "under wraps" at the moment. People will just have come and see the show. I can tell you that we haven't cut out any one song. You won't come to see it and say, "oh that song's missing." We have managed to get every song that was in the original show into the production. Some of them are naturally shorter now though.
RD: Well that's a good start. Is there anything you can tell us about the casting?
MG: I cannot disclose anything at this time, other than that we are fully cast and I'd say that within 30 days we'll be announcing the cast.
RD: You're also involved with bringing The Wedding Singer to Broadway?
MG: Yes, just as an Associate Producer. A lot of that producing team is the same team as Hairspray, and again it's headed by Margo Lion, who I got to know and be friendly with, because of Hairspray coming out to Vegas. Also, some friends of mine actually wrote The Wedding Singer, Chad and Matthew. I got a chance to read it and I instantly thought this will be a great fit for Las Vegas. I could tell. It was really well written, very funny and a very fun, "up" evening...and I think it really meets the definition of the kind of entertainment that Vegas is looking for. So, my involvement on the production at this point is very minimal. I came on as an Associate Producer, and helped raise some of the capital, but the real reason I jumped on board was to help usher the show into Las Vegas.
RD: Do you see any change coming to this trend of Broadway to Vegas ...or a change in the air?
MG: At the moment, no. And the reason I say that is that casinos, for the most part, don't want to take the risk on something unproven. Now that could change...and I certainly think that somebody like Steve Wynn, who I think is a real visionary, could change that trend...but at the moment, casinos are interested in bringing in "pre-branded" hits. They're not interested in taking risks on untried pieces of entertainment. I'd say that the one exception to that rule is Cirque du Soleil. They'll take a chance on a new Cirque show, but Cirque, as a corporation, is known for a certain quality and style of production. So, again it's risky, yet not risky at the same time.
RD: What's an average day in your life like?
MG: Well, I wake up 6 or 7 in the morning, and the first thing that I do is run to my computer, because we have many clients in London. Because of the time difference, I want to make sure that I can respond to any e-mail prior to the close of business in the West End. I'm an avid swimmer and I swim every morning, have breakfast, and I'm usually to work between 9 and 10 in the morning. I'm in meetings or working in my office until about 7 or 8 at night, and I usually stop in at one of my shows, and touch base with everybody. I'll check-in 2 or 3 times a week, and I often have business dinners at night, too. Then I usually go home and collapse. I would say I'm a definite workaholic, no doubt about it. I usually work 6 days a week, if not 7 days a week. I love what I do, though.
RD: Sounds familiar...and I'm exhausted just hearing about it! How do you feel when you read your name in papers all across the country, like The New York Times or Variety dealing with you as an authority on Las Vegas theatre?
MG: It definitely makes me chuckle. One side of my brain does not view myself that way, and then, when I think about it, well who knows more about Vegas entertainment? I would be hard-pressed to rattle off many names. I have grown to know this market very well, again, because that wasn't a conscious choice, I didn't come here with that mission...I came here on a life mission, and it just turned out to be a great career opportunity for me. I'm definitely somebody that will jump on an opportunity, if I see it. I try not to take myself too seriously, because I know that this town could change tomorrow and maybe not need what I bring to the plate...so I tend not to count too much on my past success. I'm always looking at, "how's the market changing?", "how can we grow with it?" And I try not to be too arrogant about it at all.
RD: Do you miss New York? How often do you get back?
MG: I get back 3, 4, 5 times a year, mostly for business. I love theatre. I'm a theatre buff, so I love to go back and see all the recent shows. My most recent trip back, I saw The Light in the Piazza, Jersey Boys, and a few other new shows. I miss seeing the new shows, but I usually find a way to eventually see them all anyway. I have to say that I miss some of the cultural aspects of New York City, but I do not miss living in New York City. I think that Vegas is a better fit for me, in terms of living.
RD: It certainly sounds that way… What shows on the strip can you recommend, other than of course your own?
MG: I'm very fond of "O", I think it's breath-taking. I've seen it probably 10 times, and I'd always go back again in a heart-beat. I also think "Ka" (a new Cirque show) is a jaw-dropping spectacle. I'm also very fond of some of the "headliners" in town. I'm probably Clint Holmes' biggest fan. I think he's an amazing talent that doesn't have a lot of recognition outside of Las Vegas. Here in Vegas, he's a major name and a major celebrity, but outside of this town he's probably not very well known. He is a singer / song-writer and, again, one of the most talented human beings I think I've ever witnessed.
RD: What are some of your favorite hotels that you might recommend to people coming out for a visit?
MG: Well, that all has to do with economics. I mean, what is it you're looking for? A lot of people would prefer to stay in a bargain hotel, so that they can spend their money on night-life or gaming. A lot of people are looking for high-end experiences. The truth is that some of my favorite hotels are not casino hotels. They have a lovely Four Seasons Hotel here in Las Vegas. It's not a casino hotel, it's just a Four Seasons. There's also a Ritz-Carlton which is really fantastic. Then there's the high-end properties on the Strip that I think are great - The Bellagio, The Venetian...Again, it just depends on what an individual is looking for and that will usually have something to do with their economic concerns.
RD: Could you ever see yourself getting involved in Las Vegas real estate in the future? Would you want to have your own theatre or to be involved in the hotel business?
MG: I would not want to be involved in the hotel business. I've been asked, on occasion, to get involved in the film or television world...and the truth is I'm a theatre guy. I love theatre. I'm an avid theatre goer, I'm an avid theatre buff, I like what I do, and I know what I do. I'm always very realistic about that, and when I've been offered to manage rock concerts, I'd always turn them down because I say I don't know that world, that's not what I do. I tend to stick with what I know I can do and do well.
RD: Okay, I think that covers all of my questions, (whew!) ...other than asking for a discount or a free room the next time I'm out there!
MG: (laughter) Absolutely, any time!
RD: Is there anything else that you want to cover, or get out there that you think I might have missed?
MG: Not really. I mean, you've really sort of covered it all. This has been very comprehensive! There's just so much talk about these Broadway trends - "Broadway's coming to Vegas, and will that continue?" And my answer always is, "well, as long as Broadway is developing really fun pieces of entertainment. If the trend shifts, and it's no longer fun pieces of entertainment, then no - I think that the process of importing Broadway shows will probably stop." But, for the time being I think that there's enough fun shows like The Wedding Singer and Jersey Boys that I think would both be great "fits" for out here. I think that for the short-term...it will continue for a while.
RD: And we'll look forward to tracking the trend on BroadwayWorld.com! Thank you very much for your time, Michael.
MG: Happy to do it. Thank you!