Following our feature last month on the new Tussaud’s in New York, we switch coasts to look at Tussaud’s Vegas’ debut at the $1.4billion Venetian Hotel.

The Venetian, with its indoor Grand Canal (complete with gondolas, singing gondoliers and stylish waterside caf├ęs), is the perfect host for the Tussauds Group’s celebration of all things celebrity.

Madame Tussaud’s is to be found within the St Mark’s Library building which, of course, is a full-scale replica of the famous Venice landmark. Tussauds has created a $20million experience that showcases glamorous personalities, many of whom have ties with Vegas, in sumptuous surroundings. The design elements of the exhibits have been thoughtfully executed with talent and kit pulled in from around the globe to make this Tussaud’s a dazzling experience, even by Vegas standards. Show producer Phil Pike spent a year at the drawing board at Tussauds’ London base before relocating to Vegas for a further six months prior to opening night in mid 1999.

A striking aspect of the exhibition is the scale of the setting for the 100 or so wax figures, with the sets and interiors all designed in-house by Tussauds in London and constructed by American company WestSun Design Edge Studios who also sourced the lighting equipment, which came from a variety of manufactures. McLean Media in Toronto were responsible for the complete audio-visual installation.

LDs Mark Henderson and Stephen Wentworth lent their considerable talents to enhancing the unique environments. Both LDs have a long association with Tussauds which, says Henderson, makes it a little easier to "follow the permutations a project undergoes over the course of an 18 month to two-year build-up." The exhibition is divided into themed areas, which were chosen based on the feedback of focus groups that opted for "glitz and glamour, plus a bit of Tussauds history," says Pike.

The two ‘Gs’ are evident from the moment you enter the exhibition; you are greeted by a mix of stars who inhabit the worlds of The Big Night Party, Sports Stars in Action, Rock ‘n’ Roll and Las Vegas Legends, the latter a striking area with its fibre optic starcloth surround supplied by TRP Fibre Optics of New York. The finale was Pike’s golden moment as producer, with his inspired idea to use renowned illusionist Jim Steinmeyer to assist in the creation of an animatronic Elvis Presley who magically appears and then vanishes to be replaced by a heavenly star. ‘Elvis’ cost $300,000 and was made by Advanced Animations.

If you’re still looking for a bit of action after being dazzled by the attraction you can always pop into the on-site wedding chapel for a quick ceremony and then pose for a photo beside Elvis and Priscilla’s giant replica wedding. How very Vegas!
Jacqueline Molloy

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