Bygone Eras of Vegas come to Ravishing Life in this Song-and-Dance Retrospective.
V Theater Group, LLC
No one comes to Vegas and says “I want to avoid the touristy stuff and see how the locals live!” No, you don’t, unless you want to live a nocturnal lifestyle of extracting money from the inebriated, then come home and not be allowed to water your own lawn.
That said, if you’re the kind of tourist that asks where the local historical society museum is, or if there are educational walking tours of the “old town,” and yet find yourself in Vegas for reasons beyond your control … this is the show for you.
Fortunately, it’s also the show for just about everybody else. For ninety minutes at the Saxe Theater in Planet Hollywood, “Vegas! The Show” serves up the most entertaining historical pageant imaginable. What other town retrospective includes showgirls, magicians, tap dancers, and a guy with amazing trained birds? Plus, no city has a better built-in soundtrack.
“Vegas! The Show” is gloriously and lovingly crafted on a stage big enough to fit the personalities it channels. We get tributes to Elton John, Lena Horne, Tom Jones, Tina Turner, Jane Kennedy, Elvis (of course) and … need we even mention it … the Rat Pack, the most iconic voices and faces of the Vegas of Yesteryear.
The show changes frequently, so within six months a whole new set of acts could be added or subtracted from the show. What matters, though, is the standard of care and quality on display. In putting dazzling talent front-and-center, producer David Saxe is clearly going back to basics. Of course, in Vegas “the basics” will always include streamers, a cast of forty dancers, an eleven-piece orchestra, and enough feathers and glitter to implode a hotel.
There’s no cheeky irony here. “What’s New Pussycat,” “Mambo Italiano,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and many other tunes get paid full-throated homage by top-shelf performers, supported by choreography that would make Fluff Le Coque smile. The showgirls are eyebrow-raising, but family-friendly, more about the costumes and colors than about titillation. One minute they sport flowing Brazilian feather headdresses; next, they dance backup for a faux-Sammy Davis Jr. in adorable bustiers emblazoned with the logos of famous candy brands, including Sweet Tarts, Red Hots, and Mounds. Oh la la …
The singing, dancing, comedy, and magic all frame a story that starts in the ’40s with a dream and a patch of blasted desert. The glamor and excess peak in the ’60s when Sinatra and his boys reign. We don’t skip the sordid details (well, not all of them) as time marches reverently, irresistibly forward with a tip of the hat and a bow.
The show ends with a surprisingly poignant coda as a curtain drops and a projector displays footage of classic hotels being imploded. Much of the pizzazz you just witnessed has returned to the sand it was built from, like ashes to ashes. You can point to where it was, but the ashes have been covered by fake Pyramids and Eiffel Towers; Britney Spears is the new Frank Sinatra; celebrity DJs have replaced the eleven-piece orchestras. In the end, this is also the perfect show for the surly purist who likes to say “Vegas isn’t what it used to be.”
For the historical tourist mentioned at the top, there is no more “old town” Vegas. It has all been blown up and replaced with new, shiny, and generic. Productions like “Vegas! The Show” are the best walking tour we’ve got.
Verdict: Sensational, funny, and fun for the whole family, “Vegas! The Show” at the Saxe Theater in Planet Hollywood Resort preserves in loving detail not only the history, but the spirit and the emotional arc of Las Vegas. Frank would be proud.