It Came From New York

Little Theatre uses old-fashioned creativity to bring a large-scale production to its small stage

On a visit to New York City about five years ago, Walter Neijadlik fell in love with the Tony-nominated Broadway musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He was taken with its clever plotline, live orchestra and flying sets. Neijadlik, who is director and president of Las Vegas Little Theatre when he isn’t a tourist, believed the show would have a broad audience appeal in Las Vegas.

“It’s a real book musical with a plot and scenes. It’s very funny and fast-paced with lots of twists and turns,” he says of the tale of two conmen living on the French Riviera who bet they can seduce an American heiress. (If the plot seems familiar, it’s because the play was also a 1988 movie.)

Inspired, Neijadlik decided to do the seemingly impossible: reproduce the large-scale production on Las Vegas Little Theatre’s 154-seat mainstage. Without the luxury of a Broadway budget, those high-tech sets and live musicians were not options. So the crew got creative.

Take the challenge of set design: The story leads the audience through 20 comedic scenes, very few of which happen in the same place. The New York incarnation of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels tackles scene changes with a revolving stage and mobile sets. Neijadlik, on the other hand, has relied on the creativity of his “amazing” design team. “With a few curtains and some really innovative and ingenious set ideas, our design team has put together a really amazing set,” he says.

Since the score is one of the most important elements to any musical, Neijadlik decided to use the next best thing to live musicians: a recording. It’s not ideal, but he boasts that his recorded track of a live orchestra is so good that the audience will be looking around wondering where the musicians are hiding.

The next challenge was working with a cast of 16 amateur actors. “People would be surprised to know in the Las Vegas community how many talented folks there are.” This includes the leads: teacher Brian Scott and married couple Mario and Penni Mendez. (Penni also doubles as the show’s costume designer). Signing on to a production of this scale is a commitment—rehearsals are five nights a week and last two hours or longer—and most of the volunteer cast come to rehearsal after their day jobs end. Along with learning a script, performers had to conquer various dance styles, including ballroom and salsa.

Neijadlik is pleased with the results: “It’s just a really good group of people having a good time and working really hard to put on what I’m sure will be a great show.”

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