Spiegelworld’s new Atomic Saloon Show, opening for previews in the intimate third-floor showroom at the Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian/Palazzo this week, isn’t the first time British director and performer Cal McCrystal has left a mark in Las Vegas. He was part of the original creation team for Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity, although his style and sense of humor weren’t an ideal fit with the Montreal-based company’s vision.
“I used to fight with them,” McCrystal says. “We used to have lots of arguments about what was funny, and I’d say, ‘What do you know?’ My original clown numbers didn’t actually make the opening, because at the last minute they decided they were too vulgar. They weren’t vulgar at all, but they were very vulgar by delicate French-Canadian standards.”
Such creative differences do not exist with Spiegelworld. McCrystal, who has served as associate director for Tony and Olivier Award-winning productions and has contributed to big films like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Paddington, was brought in for some directing work on Opium in February and provided a significant refresh of that sci-fi comedy, which has expanded its seating and found its groove at the Cosmopolitan. So it made sense to put McCrystal in charge of Atomic, which received rave reviews during its debut run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last month as a rowdy Western-themed variety show.
“I think Spiegelworld and I are quite a good fit,” he says. “I’ve made the show from scratch, and it’s got a lot of my aesthetic about it, but it’s a very warm show—very funny and sexy but also it has a heart to it. I’m a big fan of Absinthe and Opium, but this does feel different.”
Atomic Saloon Show incorporates characters you’ll recognize from the Western genre, like the small-town mayor and the preacher and the saloon girls and the singing cowboy, but they’re woven into a simple narrative that connects each act and creates a different kind of energy from the variety-show shenanigans of Absinthe.
McCrystal also notes that the concept was almost completely inspired by the venue, an intimate room on the Palazzo side of the property formerly known as the Act nightclub.
“It’s a hidden jewel,” he says of the space. “When I had a look, the first thing I said was that it looked like a theater from the Old West. It seemed like a very American thing, and I thought, I’d love to do a sexy Western show in there with a madame who’s a bit of a disciplinarian, and there are these young gorgeous people who just can’t seem to get out of her clutches. And that ended up being what the show was.”
It’s also the smallest of the three Spiegelworld Vegas spaces, seating fewer than 250. The director believes that’s an advantage, since it will feel like a real saloon and get the audience very close to the action.
“I’ve never done a show where every single character gets laughs, and in this show, I’ve done it,” McCrystal says. “You don’t often see sexy and funny together in a way where they don’t undermine each other, but it’s all working together really well.”
ATOMIC SALOON SHOW Opens September 8. Monday & Tuesday, 8 p.m.; Thursday-Sunday, 7 & 9 p.m.; $86-$151. Grand Canal Shoppes, 702-414-9000.