Saturday, April 16, 2011

(No.146) Pt.3 of Las Vegas travel tips

In Parts 1 & 2 of this series of columns presenting some "Las Vegas travel tips" (column No. 144 posted April 9, 2011; column No.145 posted April 13.2011) we offered some tips on visiting Las Vegas based on the experiences my wife Pat and I have had. What follows is the third and final column in this series.


In terms of buying tickets to attend any of the shows which are part of the very large range of entertainment staged in Las Vegas we have had the best results in terms of both quality of seats and their price by NOT buying in advance of arriving in the city. Rather we have in the main waited until after we arrive in Las Vegas and then going that day or the next to the box offices in the hotels in which the shows we want to attend are being performed. You benefit from not only seeing a complete seating chart for the theatre or showroom but from speaking with a knowedgeable ticket clerk about the quality of this or that seat and about whether or not a seat at a price of $X+1 is really any better than one priced at $X-1.

Also, at a box office you can and should ask about whether or not there is any discount available on the ticket price (don't count on being told if you don't ask). Even with the Cirque du Soleil shows which don't normally allocate tickets to the 'same day as performance' ticket discounters in Las Vegas, there are often discounts available from the Cirque show box offices. We have received several.

For example: we obtained a discount on tickets to the Cirque's "O" production, a show we wanted to revisit. We asked the box office person if there was a discount available? She hesitated and then replied sotto voce (as if disclosing nuclear secrets to us) that there was a 25% discount available on tickets to the second show of the evening we wished to attend but not to the first show of the same evening. The second show was fine with us as was the 25% discount.

Another point about picking seats and their sight lines: unlike the older traditional showrooms featuring booths and multi-seat tables at hotels such as the Flamingo, Bally's, the Imperial Palace and Harrah's, the big new hotel theatres playing Cirque shows or Broadway type shows are designed so the seating terraces are high enough to preclude having someone's head obscuring your line of sight to the stage. Hence there is little advantage to sitting close to the stage; indeed for the Cirque shows in which much of the action takes place above the stage itself, sitting too close can actually diminish one's viewing pleasure.

There are seven different Cirque du Soleil shows playing permanently at seven different hotel theatres on the Las Vegas Strip:
1. "O" at the Bellagio
2. "Ka" at the MGM Grand
3. "Mystere" at Treasure Island
4. "LOVE" [the Beatles show] at the Mirage
5. "Viva ELVIS" at Aria
6. "CRISS ANGEL Believe" at the Luxor
7. "Zumanity" at New York New York

Pat, who is a major fan of Cirque du Soleil productions, rates "O" and "Ka" as the best of the bunch, followed closely by "LOVE". There is a Cirque-type show at the Wynn called Le Reve, good but not quite up to "O" and "Ka" by Pat's standards. Our ratings of these and other Vegas shows including the new "ELVIS" show were covered in previous columns and are posted on "Elvis: Stumbling back to Las Vegas" (column No.72 posted Jan.7,2010); "RickardsRead ratings of Las Vegas shows" (column No.73 posted Jan.12,2010).

There are several high standard Vegas productions of Broadway shows:
1. "Phantom of the Opera" at the Venetian
2. "Jersey Boys" at the Palazzo
3. "Lion King" at Mandalay Bay

There are a variety of long running 'name' shows of one sort or another. For example:
1. Donny and Marie Osmond at the Flamingo; very polished, professional,energetic and well-received by the audience.
2. Celine Dion left Vegas after a 5 year run at Caesar's Palace. Now she's back again performing in Caesar's huge theatre for another extended engagement. Most people know whether they like Celine or not; there is big demand for and high prices of tickets to her show.
3. The Blue Man Group at the Venetian is an established show with a record of success with many audiences, including Pat (for reasons which largely escape me).
4. Human Nature is a successful Australian vocal quartet that has become a very highly rated show by Vegas audiences doing Motown hits at the Imperial Palace. These Aussies elicit an amazingly positive response from their audience.
5. Jubilee at Bally's is the last of what were once fairly common in Vegas entertainment: Paris-type stage shows featuring beautiful, skimpily dressed dancers and various variety type acts. It certainly reminded us of the shows we have attended which still light up the night in Paris at the Lido and the Moulin Rouge -- but Jubilee is on a smaller scale.

If there is any place in North America that can be said to be the natural habitat of the 'tribute' group or artist, it would have to be Las Vegas. The city probably has more Elvis impersonators working, including those on the Strip posing for pictures with passersby, than anywhere on earth. Harrah's showroom presents a show of tribute artists called Legends. The 'tribute' performers change from time to time. This show was formerly next door on the Strip at the Imperial Palace.

Tribute bands of course vary widely in the degree to which their musical talents allow or handicap them in replicating the vocal stylings and sound of those they are imitating. There is a Beatles tribute band at the Saxe Theatre which is excellent and recently we saw a Queen tribute band called "Queen Nation" which was in Vegas for a 2 night engagement at the Hilton. They were excellent and apparently perform often in the city.

There are a great many more entertainment possibilities to be had in Vegas: some are extended engagements while others are for a night or two only. Before going to Las Vegas the visitor can check who is playing on and then pick up its widely available printed Guide once you are in the city. For excellent up-to-date daily information the newspaper in Las Vegas, the Review-Journal, is enclosed every day in a 4 page "Daily Visitor Guide". Both are of great value in knowing what is on, where, at what times and with what ticket prices.



by Alastair Rickard



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