‘Baz — Star Crossed Love’ celebrates a successful first year

When it opened in the middle of 2015 at Light Nightclub at Mandalay Bay, Baz was a bright, fresh, different musical production on the Las Vegas Strip, trying to make its mark in a tempestuous live entertainment landscape. Now, as the show celebrates its first anniversary as Baz — Star Crossed Love in a more natural home at the Palazzo Theatre, it’s that much closer to making to making that mark.

“Vegas has been a wild ride for us,” says Shane Scheel, executive producer and co-creator at For The Record, the Los Angeles-based live entertainment company behind Baz. “Working with the Cirque du Soleil [team] at Light gave us what we called our Vegas workshop and it was an incredible experience to put that together, and then to have everyone at Venetian [and Palazzo] come see it and fall in love with it and think we can do it even better, that has been a treat for us to continue to explore the show.

“To have it running for a year there is surreal because Vegas is a wild city to produce in. There’s a lot of competition, and our goal was create something very different. Every day that’s how we think.”

For The Record’s shows — called a “unique postmodern cabaret” by Vanity Fair — celebrate the work of acclaimed and famous film directors like Quentin Tarantino, John Hughes, Martin Scorsese, and in Las Vegas, Baz Luhrmann. Baz is centered on the love stories in Luhrmann’s films Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby, set to a modern pop music soundtrack featuring songs like Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black.” The show has been hailed for universally strong vocal performances from its ensemble cast and its ability to surround its audience with sound and action.

“When we set out to the Palazzo, we were really able to take the space and craft it into something that suits the show. Light was a fun playground but it wasn’t built for the show,” Scheel says. “The Palazzo Theatre was built for the For The Record experience, to bring the action off the screen and into people’s laps, and their minds and hearts, so you can become completely immersed in these films and stories and, most importantly, the soundtracks.”

Coinciding with the anniversary of the show is the return of its original star, Ruby Lewis, who plays Gatsby’s Daisy Buchanan. Lewis, who’s also worked in film and television on Girl Meets World, Masters of Sex, Desperate Housewives and more, just wrapped a year-long run as the lead in the Broadway debut of Cirque’s Paramour, a role that was born from her work in the first version of Baz.

“It sort of fell into my lap due to my connection through Baz with Cirque du Soleil’s theatrical [team],” Lewis says. (Cirque was involved with Baz at Light but is not involved with the Palazzo production.) “Paramour was a completely different beast. The artistic process was totally organic, very different from what I was used to, which is putting up a show in a couple weeks. We took our time building the show, and it was my first time on this grand scale where I got to be such a big part of the process and have so much input.”

Building the Paramour character around her strengths was an ideal situation for Lewis, and she says it changed the way she approaches her performances now — including reprising her role in Baz. “It’s not that my performance has been bashful, but as you experience more, it colors your performance,” she says. “I feel like I’m able to go a little deeper and that it feels more comfortable in this role for me now. And I’ve really been chomping at the bit after I saw it open [at Palazzo] and the space is so stunning, and the way the show has been reimagined is so vibrant and exciting.”

Baz has come a long way, Scheel explains, and it’s because of a serious commitment from everyone involved.

“We’ve done shows in so many different kinds of venues, from a bar in East Hollywood to a 2,000-seat theater at South by Southwest,” he says. “We couldn’t do Baz without the commitment of so many people, from designers and actors taking a chance and going out to Vegas, to everyone from the president of the casino on down to the creative team [at Palazzo]. It’s been very exciting to see how they’ve sort of blended the show into the whole hotel, not just [marketing it] to guests but envisioning how the show matches the opulence and romance of the overall experience at the property.”

Baz — Star Crossed Love performs Tuesdays through Sundays at 7 p.m. in the Palazzo Theatre. Tickets start at $59.50 and more info can be found at venetian.com.

{ SOURCE: Brock Radke, Las Vegas Sun | https://goo.gl/LmXQVJ }