Las Vegas entertainment vet Costa all-in at Commercial Center

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In the year In November 2020, I attended the re-opening of “Extravaganza — The Las Vegas Spectacular” at the Bally’s Jubilee Theater. The show was spectacular only because it was one of the first productions on the Strip to take to the stage during the Covid-19 season.

The audience is limited to 50, the same as the actors on stage. I was sitting in the middle of the theater, feeling completely alone and strangely out of place.

As soon as the show started, an usher left with a glass of sparkling water – fizzy water as we call it.

“What is this about?” I asked.

“It’s from him,” she said, pointing to a waving Damian Costa, a few rows away. The veteran entertainment executive was recognizable even behind his Caesar Entertainment mask for his slicked-back gray hair and twinkling eyes.

“I was surprised!” I screamed with laughter. Even at a distance, we are bound by this authentic, unique performance as the first step in the entertainment community’s recovery from the pandemic.

That moment was characteristic of Costa. There are executives with different visions, but none are more passionate about entertainment than this native Las Vegan. He will leave Caesars Entertainment in September 2021 and launch Pompeii Entertainment with partner and Vegas entrepreneur Nick Cordaro next May.

The company’s latest work, the Composer’s Room in the historic business center on East Sahara Street, is a project with a real feel.

With the opening pushed back by construction requirements, the showroom opened last weekend, with an open mic party Sunday and a “Broadway Goes Hollywood” revival on Tuesday, both hosted by Vegas composer and musician Keith Thompson.

The Composers Room is a stylish space, with black and silver seating and marble-look cocktail tables facing the Showlounge. The room is dripping with Vegas references. A “Rat Pack” row of booths – named for Frank, Dean and Sammy – divides the Showlounge, with high-top tables in the back. The stage is three tiers high and can easily accommodate an eight piece band, trio or soloist.

A trendy cabaret bar is located on the opposite side of the venue, with an upright piano always on stage (a large piano showroom is also available) and a dining area where guests can enjoy intimate performances.

The composition room’s motto is, “It’s our Vegas. Our Way” The message couldn’t be clearer if an impersonator of legendary Las Vegas maître d’Emilio Muselli greeted guests on stage.

“What I want to do here is focus on the business side,” Costa says as he leads an impromptu tour of the site. “The artists, the promoters and the producers need to know that we have to fix things. You don’t open a residency in Harara unless you know first. It’s the same here,” he said.

During the holidays, the venue is open from 5pm-11pm Tuesday to Sunday, with extended hours on show nights. The attention to detail is in the menu categories. Appetizers are The Tempo (potato skins, wings, brussels sprouts and the like). The burger-sandwich lineup is a commercial deli, named for the main business at that site. The crescendo for entrees (truffle ravioli, baked mac-and-cheese, spaghetti), the green room for soups and salads, the main stage for fish and steak.

The entertainment schedule is full of small acts, but big talent. Sack vet Jimmy Mulidore was arrested on Saturday, following last Friday’s Vegas major Jimmy Hopper. Throwbacks are the Swing It Girls on Sunday night, followed by “Phantom Thursday – The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” on Thursday, impressionist Jammin’ Jay Lamont, also on Thursday; and the return of Thompson’s “Piano Party” on Dec. 5.

The feast day of Vita Drew is December 10, the poet Khoree, who survived the Duomo; Limoncello, a rock cover band led by controversial attorney Tony Sgro, plays every Wednesday. All intel is available at TheComposersRoom.com.

Expect more action as revelers search for Costa, who has been a fixture on the Vegas entertainment scene for decades. The exec has a long Vegas tenure as director of entertainment at South Pointe from 2009-2013, including eight years with Caesars. Michael Gagan, owner of the South Pointe, has given Costa the latitude to manage the hotel’s entertainment division at Costa View.

At Caesars, Costa said he was given a single directive by the company’s president of entertainment, Jason Gastwirth: “Do your best.”

Costa’s first Pompeii lecture was at the Duomo and Cupola Cafe in Rio, which closed a month ago after a 16-month run. Ownership group Dreamscape Companies is reportedly planning to take Comedy Cellar into the space. Pompeii operates Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club at The Link Promenade and “Late Night Magic” at The Orleans Place.

In the composer’s room, Costa took over the former Nevada room, which put many actors on stage during the Covid revival before it closed in August 2022. and Coop’s Cabaret & Hot Spot, which star-crossed for a few weeks before forming last spring.

Costa persistently sprinkled his personality and family history into the new space. The ceiling designs are charts of songs written by his grandfather, Tony Costa, including the never-released “Touched by an Angel.” Costa the Elder was an accomplished pianist and songwriter, Vic Damon’s sound director and the lead singer of “Jubilee.” in Vegas and “Gypsy” on Broadway.

Family photos share space with legends. Costa’s great uncle, Bob Hartman, played French horn in Elvis’ band. Under the glass of Uncle Bob’s work, photos from Elvis films and documents such as the itinerary of King’s 1973 American tour are displayed.

Even the clarinet Costa played as a child is in the game, as in Showlounge’s “Ghost Light.” And Costa’s son, Dayton, is the field operations wizard in this family business.

But even with all its features, the composer’s room faces headwinds to work in a historic commercial center. Parking is huge, but also a security concern, especially at night. Parking is free and plentiful, but entertainers dressed for a formal performance should feel safe walking to their cars after the show.

County Commissioners Tick Segreblom and Ross Miller, both of whom were at the site’s opening party, support the creation of the 60-acre art colony. UNLV is expected to be a partner in the field. In the Arts District, the owners of Rebar are planning an Art Gallery Steakhouse to occupy the space next to Derek Stonebarger’s Epic Taverns at Q Club.

Such gentrification will do more to change the direction and focus of a business center than any entertainment venue, however misguided.

Costa, who used to hang out at Kuye Club as a kid, knows this.

“I think the changes have started,” he said. “I think I’ve delivered a brand that knows how Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world while leaning into what’s to come. I will be, and I think I’m good at it.”

John Katsilomets’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” The podcast is available at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Find him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com follow @johnnykats in X, @JohnnyKats1 On Instagram.





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