Imagine a Wild West revue combined with elements of dance, acrobatics, burlesque, and comedy, and you might begin to envision the world of “Atomic Saloon ShowTM.” That lack of an easy definition is exactly the way Ross Mollison prefers it.
Mollison is the founder of Las Vegas-based Spiegelworld—the production company behind “Atomic Saloon ShowTM” at The Venetian® Resort Las Vegas, “Absinthe” at Caesar’s Palace, and “Opium” at The Cosmopolitan. This visionary started out with a desire to create shows that would be unlike any others in Las Vegas, and the result is a deft blend of moments that are funny, bawdy, and awe-inspiring, married together in audience-pleasing spectacles. Mollison christened his company “Spiegelworld” from the German word for mirror—“Spiegel”—wanting to create comedic entertainment that could feel like a reflection of society. With his latest show, he’s also enjoying how he can push those societal boundaries.
“The ingredients of ‘Atomic Saloon ShowTM’ seem pretty implausible together, but the result is hilarious,” Mollison says. “Our characters range from nuns to a preacher to an outlaw to Boozy Skunkton, a woman who’s just trying to run a saloon, and then you combine that with some incredibly skilled artists from around the world. I think the show tops everything in its genre, precisely because it’s so unexpected.”
Each performance of “Atomic Saloon ShowTM” starts with cast members casually wandering through and interacting with the audience prior to taking the stage. Even before the cabaret-style story begins to take shape, guests are getting into the spirit of the event via the show’s cocktail program. Offered at tables and bars throughout the venue, the imaginative menu is among the reasons audience members linger long after the 75-minute show has ended.
“We look at our cocktail program as something that’s super heightened, not only in the specialty cocktails we’ve designed, but also just putting the idea of a cocktail at a Las Vegas show on steroids,” Mollison explains. “Among the favorites on the menu are our signature Cocktail Towers, which are beautifully presented in a gallon-sized crystal goblet. The show goes on for 75 minutes, and with the Tower, a party of two to six people can enjoy cocktails the entire show, because it’s 14 standard-sized drinks in one. With Atomic Saloon, we wanted to create the ultimate show-and-party experience, and our Cocktail Towers have become a key element in that—and they put a smile on everyone’s face when they’re served.”
“Atomic Saloon ShowTM” opened at The Venetian® Resort Las Vegas in the fall of 2019. It was garnering rapturous reviews—the Las Vegas Sun deemed it “an instant hit”—before the COVID-19 pandemic caused most of the city’s consumer-facing businesses, including hotels and entertainment, to shut down in mid-March of 2020. On the heels of the announcement that shows could resume on May 5 of this year, Mollison returned to Las Vegas following a quarantine in his native Australia. “It feels so great to be back,” he says. “So many unknowns existed at the time of the shutdown, and everything felt so uncertain, from our shows to the health and safety of our company, which not only includes our cast members and crews, but also our box-office staff, ushers, food and beverage team, and hospitality workers. That’s when partnerships and relationships really mattered, and I have to say that Brookfield Properties, which hosts our show at The Venetian® Resort Las Vegas, has been incredibly supportive.”
The show’s seamless blend of salacious humor and dazzling acrobatics has been key to attracting audiences in the midst of the city’s reopening. This style was established by “Absinthe,” which opened in Las Vegas on April Fool’s Day in 2011. That show consistently tops Vegas.com’s rankings of favorite entertainment options in the city, with “Atomic Saloon ShowTM” following at a close second. Why do both productions resonate so thoroughly with audiences? “I think we tapped into the desire of so many people who come here to have an incredibly fun time,” Mollison says. “You see it when they’ve landed or they’re checking into a hotel: they’ve got these wide-eyed expressions, as though they can’t wait for what they’re going to experience. They want that feeling of a wild time, so we’ve tried to create a show that encapsulates that crazy sense of what Vegas is all about.”
Just how successful was “Atomic Saloon ShowTM” right out of the gate? Consider that “Absinthe” took six months to break even, Mollison explains, while “Atomic Saloon ShowTM” only required six days. Even more impressive, “Absinthe” is performed in a 700-seat theater, while “Atomic Saloon ShowTM,” located in a third-floor space at Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian® Resort Las Vegas, is decidedly more intimate at just 243 seats—a counter-intuitive strategy when you already have a hit show on your hands. “We could have taken the success of ‘Absinthe’ to produce something even bigger, but I loved the idea of going in the opposite direction, to do something roughly a third of the size of what we had been doing, also because it would present a whole new set of challenges,” Mollison says.
“Brookfield Properties helped to confirm that decision, because they came through with a space at The Venetian® Resort Las Vegas that was absolutely perfect. The audience really feels like they’re in the middle of all the action, and they walk away thinking it’s the greatest show they’ve ever seen.”
Las Vegas, of course, is a city that’s steeped in entertainment history, from its Rat Pack years of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. at the Sands to its tradition of showgirls, richly embellished with feathers and crystals, and the more recent concert runs of everyone from Celine Dion to Jennifer Lopez, Bruno Mars, and Lady Gaga. “This is still the greatest entertainment destination in the world,” Mollison points out. “Because you have so many choices when you come to this town, that drives us to keep making the shows better and better. We’re always working on them and tweaking elements to keep each show feeling fresh and the best it can be.”
That also allows “Atomic Saloon ShowTM” and other Spiegelworld shows to attract repeat audiences, eager to enjoy favorite moments while discovering new elements. Fold in the cocktail program, and it’s little wonder that Mollison knows he has a hit. “You’ve heard the saying, ‘It’s as much fun as you can have without being arrested’?” Mollison asks. “That’s a great way to look at what I’ve tried to do with this show. But most importantly, we’re having fun every night, and making sure the audience feels the same way.”