When I first visited Vegas I was surprised there were people on my plane who didn’t gamble and had no intention of doing so. Why are you going to Vegas, I thought? Now I get it. There’s so much to do and see everyone should visit at least once even if gambling is their idea of hell and one of the best things to do is to see a show or ten….
Every casino hotel of any significance at all has at least one show in house and some have many. There are afternoon shows, evening shows and late night shows. I’ve seen shows on Broadway and in London’s West End and I can honestly say they don’t hold a candle to a good Vegas show. The theatres in some of the Vegas hotels are much bigger than anything you’ll find in New York or London and bigger means more revenue and more revenue means bigger and better shows.
I’ve by no means seen every show in Vegas and would never try to do so but I’m going to run through a selection of what’s available as at January 2016 with some pointers here and there. There is presently a very heavy leaning towards Cirque De Soleil in Vegas. If you don’t like that model there’s still lots on out there but your choice is more restricted. Shows, particularly in the evening, can also be quite expensive so you need a little help.
First thing to do is to check the ‘welcome pack’ that they gave you when you checked into your hotel. Sometimes you’ll find mention of free or reduced price show tickets. If there’s nothing there try your casino’s loyalty or player’s club desk. I told you elsewhere that one of the perks of a Total Rewards Diamond Card is two free show tickets each and every month. This only applies to selected Harrahs’ shows but your in-house scheme will probably operate a similar system. Check it out.
Next step is to try one of the show ticket agents or resellers. We all know companies like Ticketmaster. You can buy online or by telephone. All the along the Strip you’ll also find other agents like Tix4Tonight who have so many booths on Las Vegas Boulevard South that you’ll definitely have seen one or a queue leading to one if you’ve been in town for more than a couple of minutes. There’s certainly one at Casino Royale and near the giant Coke Bottle. They hold a selection of tickets for shows that day and into the future and promise substantial savings. You can telephone them also.
If you don’t want to leave the hotel you can visit the Concierge desk in your foyer who should be able to hook you up with tickets but don’t expect much, if anything, of a discount. You can also visit the theatre itself as they all have sales windows open most of the day but, again. you’ll be paying full price.
- If you call and buy your tickets for collection later (Will Call) don’t forget your ID or they won’t give you the tickets.
- There’s no real dress code for these shows just be sensible and wear shoes and a shirt!
- Some of the theatre air con systems are very efficient so bring a jacket or something if you’re a chilly mortal.
- Usually you’ve bought a ‘general admission’ ticket. If so it’s first-come first-served for the good seats.
- It’s no smoking throughout and this usually includes the lobbies.
The following is just a selection of what is available:
- MAC KING COMEDY MAGIC SHOW at Harrahs. This is my favourite afternoon show and not just because they gave me the tickets! This is suitable for the whole family and includes some great close up magic and comedy entertainment. Shows at 1pm and 3pm, dark (closed) Sunday and Monday, prices allegedly start at $41 but you can certainly do better than that.
- GREGORY POPOVICH’S COMEDY PET THEATER at Planet Hollywood is for you if your like cats and dogs and other critters doing the sort of stuff you’ll see on Britain’s Got Talent. One show at 4pm, dark Sunday and Monday, prices start at $30.
- JEFF CIVILLICO: COMEDY IN ACTION is at Flamingo and combines physical humour, stunts, juggling and comedy. Jeff doesn’t work Thursday or Friday which is unusual in Vegas but other days you can catch him at 5.30pm (which is also rather late for an afternoon show) at $40 upwards.
- LEGENDS IN CONCERT is also at Flamingo and features a selection of tribute acts currently emulating Adele, Prince, Sinatra and The Blues Brothers. The acts change periodically, they perform at 4pm in the quiet season but only in the evening from late February onwards.
- MENOPAUSE THE MUSICAL at Harrah’s also scrapes into this category as there’s a matinee on a Monday only at 4pm (otherwise it’s an evening show). It’s a musical about the menopause so probably not for the younger kids and prices apparently start at $61 but you’ll almost certainly do better than that if you try.
- NATHAN BURTON COMEDY MAGIC at Planet Hollywood is family friendly funny comedy along the lines of Mac King and runs everyday at 4pm except Monday and Wednesday and is a bargain at $20 and up.
- PARANORMAL – THE MIND-READING MAGIC SHOW at Bally’s is a stage hypnosis show at 4pm, excepting Tuesday and Thursday, from $41. Taking a bit of a chance on hypnosis in front of the children?
If it’s not an afternoon show then it’s an evening or late evening show so I’ve broken these down a bit for you.
Cirque De Soleil
I said there were at lot to choose from:
- Cirque du Soleil: Ka – MGM Grand
- Cirque du Soleil: Michael Jackson ONE – Mandalay Bay
- Cirque du Soleil: Mystere – Treasure island
- Cirque du Soleil: O – Bellagio
- Cirque du Soleil: The Beatles LOVE – Mirage
- Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana – Aria
- Cirque du Soleil: Zumanity – NYNY
- Le Reve: The Dream – Wynn
- Cirque du Soleil: Criss Angel Believe – Luxor
They’re all great; note Zumanity at NYNY is performed ‘near nude’, has adult themes (see the poster) and is rated 18.
Commonly there are two shows an evening at about 7pm and 9.30pm with two days a week dark. Those days will be the same each week for a particular show but vary across the shows so there is always plenty on. It can take quite a while to get to your seat as the theatres are huge so allow plenty of time. They are very keen on you being seated before the show starts.
Prices start at about $70 a ticket. I say ‘start’. Like everything else you get what you pay for and if you want the best seats on a Saturday night you’ll be paying a lot more than that. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I would always go on a quieter night when it costs less yet the atmosphere’s still largely the same.
Other Production Shows
- Absinthe – Caesars Palace.
- Blue Man Group – this is on at the Luxor now but when I went to see it the venue was the Venetian. I remember the seating was not very comfortable for a big man but I still fell asleep! Don’t let that put you off; it was a very impressive show just not my cup of tea.
- Evil Dead: The Musical – at the Tommy Wind Theatre, MGM Grand – this is comedy taken from the films not the TV series.
- Jabbawockeez – this has also moved from Monte Carlo to the MGM Grand. They say it’s a world famous dance crew but they’ve jumped on the same bandwagon as Blue Man Group by concealing their faces so pretty much anyone competent enough can perform.
- Jersey Boys – basically the one thing to go to Paris for! This iconic Tony-award winning musical is essentially the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons told through their greatest hits. Generally only Monday is dark and the show starts at 7pm. At $60 upwards this is a must especially if you can get it for less by any of the means set out above. So good it’s spread worldwide.
- Million Dollar Quartet – Harrahs. Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins sat down for a jam session at Sun Records Studio and this is its recreation.
- Rock of Ages – it’s a bit of a trek to the Rio over the far side of I 15 – you’ll need a car or a cab but this is worth the effort if you’re a rocker at heart. The year is 1987, the performance starts at 7.30 and there aren’t usually any dark days.
- V-The Ultimate Variety Show – at Planet Hollywood features magicians, comedians, acrobatic skaters and athletic performers, the shows are at 7pm and/or 8.30pm (which gives you an idea of the length of the show).
- Boyz II Men – come and go for occasional weekends at the Mirage when Terry Fator fancies a hard-earned evening off.
- Britney: Piece of Me – Planet Hollywood. I remember gasps of surprise when this residency was announced – were they taking a big risk or what – but I’ve not heard anything untoward. Show nights vary a lot (for instance no shows in March 2016) so check with the theatre.
- Celine Dion – she was part of the furniture at Caeasars Palace then she left but fortunately she didn’t stay away long and now she’s back. Thursday, Sunday and Monday are dark. Very popular so you’ll need to make reservations well in advance. She sings her most celebrated (famous) songs so expect that Titanic thing to be in there somewhere.
- Donny & Marie – you couldn’t miss that enormous banner that used to cover most of the Flamingo! They keep extending their residency and show no sign of stopping. Sunday and Monday are usually dark and they don’t perform all the time so check with the theatre or when you book tickets.
- Elton John The Million Dollar Piano – performances from this legendary artist are few and far between so when he’s in town at Caesars Palace get in quick! There are a host of dates in April 2016 that will be snapped up very quickly. Whatever I may say about Caesars in other respects you can’t fault their headline talent.
- Jennifer Lopez ALL I HAVE – coming to Planet Hollywood for a number of dates in May and June 2016 – not a true resident buy you can be sure the tickets will go like hot cakes.
- Mariah Carey #1 to Infinity – similar comments apply. Coming to Caesars Palace for sporadic dates in February, June, August and September.
- Matt Goss – has his own room; The Gossy Room at Cleopatra’s Barge, Caesars Palace, backed by a swinging live band and dance troup this is a very commendable attempt to bring audiences back to the days of vintage Vegas shows in a classic casino venue. Who’d have thought he’d be here doing this well after the early days in Bros? Go on, my son.
- Olivia Newton-John – July through December excepting September, you’ll find ONJ at the Flamingo more often than not.
- Terry Fator is The Voice of Entertainment at the Mirage. Winner of America’s Got Talent in 2007 he was signed up by the Mirage the following year and has been there ever since. He’s just announced a five year contract extension. Dark days vary but there’s a reason Terry’s been headlining so long as a singer, comedian and celebrity impersonator with lovable puppets to make everyone smile.
- David Copperfield – three shows a day on a Saturday and two most other evenings you can see why they named a theatre after him at the MGM Grand! The photograph may be a little out of date but the magic isn’t.
- Illusions starring Jan Rouven – dark Tuesday and starting early at 6pm Jan Rouven brings his hair-raising, death-defying show from Europe to Vegas via the Tropicana.
- Mat Franco – emulated Terry Fator by being season nine winner of America’s Got Talent earning his headlining spot at The LINQ Hotel and Casino so I’ll be checking him out when I stay there in March. If he does half as well or is half as good as Terry we’ll all be very happy.
- Penn & Teller – if you haven’t heard of these two regular visitors to the UK where have you been? One of the few reasons to venture all the way over to the Rio, Thursday and Friday are usually dark for this unique combination of outstanding magic and one-sided comedy.
- TOMMY WIND – Magic, Music & More! Youthful magician Tommy already has the theatre named after him down at the MGM Grand and apparently features his mother, father and, occasionally, grandfather in a humourous magic show for all the family. Prices start at about $25 making this a good value 6pm show, dark Sunday and Monday.
- Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club – this is the MGM’s version of Improv at Harrahs. A variety of guest comedians drop in for a week or so at a time. Unless you know the comedy scene very well indeed it’s a question of pot luck who you get and whether they’re funny or not. I’ve had my fingers burned once or twice. Showtime’s 8pm every day of the week.
- Carrot Top – different altogether, you know what you’re getting from this red-headed pop culture comedian. Show time’s 8pm and Tuesday’s dark at the Luxor.
- Improv at Harrah’s – self evidently at Harrahs, they usually take Monday night off. I’ve been there many times, you may be lucky with the guest comedians or you may not. Sets seem to be getting shorter and shorter but it’s not expensive. Like all these evening comedy shows you’re pressured to buy drinks at your table.
- Jokesters Comedy Club – the Bally’s version of the visiting comedy performer format with shows daily at 9.30pm. You know my views on these by now.
- L.A. Comedy Club – same again, this time at the Stratosphere, at 8pm and again at 10pm on Thursday through Saturday.
- Las Vegas Live Comedy Club – Planet Hollywood; same format, same chances of a good evening starting at 9pm. I visit these clubs all over America so chances are you’ve done so too wherever you’ve visited outside Vegas. You could certainly argue that there’s no Vegas ‘value’ in this format.
- Laugh Factory – the Tropicana this time, usually two shows a night at 8.30pm and 10.30pm.
- Rich Little – I have to confess I’m not familiar with this ‘legendary comedian and impressionist’ but he’s been in and out of Vegas for years and is currently dark Friday and Monday at the Tropicana
- Sin City Comedy & Burlesque – Planet Hollywood again but mixing it up slightly by adding a sexy show format with a touch of burlesque to the usual format of visiting performers. 7pm most nights.
- Vinnie Favorito: Relentless – known for roasting celebrities and uses those skills to poke fun at the audience down at the Tommy Wind (MGM) Thursday through Sunday at 8pm or 10pm. Obviously ‘roasting’ means something entirely different in the USA.
- Aussie Hunks – a bit of hip hop and dancing thrown in at Planet Hollywood at 10.30. Weekends only though the low season.
- Chippendales – it’s on at the Rio every night at 8.30pm or 10.30pm and you all know what’s going to happen.
- Crazy Girls – one for the guys now at Planet Hollywood including pole dance routines and sexy costumes, 9pm but not on Thursdays.
- Fantasy – ‘from sultry striptease to rockin’ romp, Fantasy brings all your dreams to life‘ whatever that means but it happens nightly at 10.30 at Luxor.
- Pin Up – starring Playboy 2011 Playmate of the Year Claire Sinclair features music from Frankie Moreno, is inspired by the classic pin up calendars from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s – at the Stratosphere, 9.30pm, dark Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Puppetry of the Penis – this isn’t quite on the Strip as it’s out at The Erotic Heritage Museum at 3275 Industrial Rd. beyond Wynn but I’ve seen these guys and it’s a bizarre but fascinating show I would recommend to the broader-minded amongst you. I quote: ‘Masters of penis origami, the show’s two hilarious stars awe and shock audiences by folding, twisting, bulging and scooping their junk into creations such as their signature creation, “The Hamburger. How could you not want to see this, Thursday through Sunday at 8pm?
- Thunder from Down Under – the Australian version of the Chippendales, at Excalibur every night at 9pm and also at 11pm on Friday and Saturday. So, the choice is this or the basement where you can watch knights joust and fight with swords at the Tournament of Kings. Let me think…
- X Burlesque – ‘is a sexy topless show combining steamy choreography, creative props and six beautiful dancers who cater to just about every male fantasy imaginable’ so says the promo. I doubt that’s true but you can check it out at Flamingo at 10pm each and every night. I guess that means they rotate the girls, if you know what I mean.
- X Country – brings audiences the sexy side of country with beautiful topless dancers and a variety of country music hits and I’m ashamed to say I haven’t seen it yet even though it’s at Harrahs at 10.30pm, dark Friday and Saturday. That might be because it wasn’t one of the shows I could get into for free with my Total Rewards card but I promise to check it out in March and report back to you when I get back. All for sake of the blog you understand.
- Zombie Burlesque – ‘frightfully sexy evening with the undead’ sounds hilarious to me so let’s both check it out at Planet Hollywood at 8.30pm every evening apart from Wednesday and Sunday and also at 10pm on a Saturday.
As I said I’ve only really scratched the surface of the many shows on offer in Vegas and I haven’t even ventured Downtown where there’s lots more to be had. Before I move on though here are a couple more tips:
Some showrooms like Million Dollar Quartet at Harrah’s and Donny and Marie at the Flamingo offer both table and booth seating. Booth seats are situated so they face the stage. There’s usually four seats to a booth. Be prepared to sit with another couple if it’s just two of you. Table seats are situated so the short end of the table faces the stage, and the people sitting at the table face each other. You might think it’s worth the little extra for a booth so you can be more comfortable and face the stage.
Once upon a time it was usual to see a show and have dinner at the same time but nowadays a drink is all that’s really on offer and they’ll be pushing that hard in your direction. To my knowledge there are just four venues left if you want to combine the two:
- Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding at Bally’s
- The Tournament of Kings at Excalibur
- The Island Heat LuWow Dinner show at Treasure Island and
- Marriage Can Be Murder – an interactive murder mystery Downtown at The D.