A Cirque Du Crazy Weekend In Vegas

Cirque Du Soleil has taken over the Vegas strip and, lucky for us, they do not plan to disappear anytime soon.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

For the last couple of years, there’s been a distinct trend in Las Vegas travel. As the economy continues to struggle, people haven’t stopped coming to Sin City, but they are spending their money differently.

Gambling revenue is declining, while more cash is getting spent on fine dining, shopping and the one element that seems to dominate Vegas these days – shows. And the biggest entertainment producer along the strip these days is Cirque du Soleil.

The live show giant has seven ongoing shows playing along Las Vegas Blvd, 10 shows per week each. To keep the shows fresh and evolving, Cirque made changes to Ka at the MGM, Mystere at Treasure Island and Viva Elvis at the Aria.

Cirque reps invited us to check out the new show variations – all in one weekend – to spread the word and to keep that entertainment dollar rolling into the desert.

We kicked off with Viva Elvis – the massive production celebrating the career of Elvis Presley. Though the show is set to close early at the Aria – only three years into its 10 year contracted run, Cirque producers decided to make major changes. First of all, the narrating character of Col. Tom Parker is gone, replaced by more comical characters.

Viva Elvis also added a Banquine act during the finale and an aerial straps duet set to an Are You Lonesome Tonight/Blue Moon medley. A new duet fills King Creole and gun-spinning and flaming lasso work highlights a recap of Elvis’ movie career.

It’s genuinely a a lowdown Vegas shame at Viva Elvis will close this summer. A great celebration of The King of Rock n’ Roll, it serves up a sort of unabashed, unpretentious joyousness that no other Cirque show offers. Maybe that’s why it didn’t play as well as hoped. Elvis fans love it, but Cirque fans may have never accepted The King’s down-home, Red State vibe compared to the distinctly artsy and European/French Canadian flavor of the other shows.

If you have a chance, get to Vegas to see Viva Elvis before it’s gone.

Back in that French Canadian mode, Mystere also updated with new aerial acts – including a silks number that added sensuality to what was a more esoteric production. I caught the production to what looked like a sold-out house. As one of the oldest Cirque shows in town – and, in many ways – a prototype for shows to follow, it’s a prime attraction at Treasure Island.

That leaves us with Ka, the biggest and most ambitious of Cirque’s Vegas productions. At the time of its construction, it housed the biggest stage area in the world from floor to roof and involved the world’s largest mobile, digital and touch sensitive screen.

The show tells the story of a prince and princess separated from each other during a war who find love while restoring peace to their kingdom. As one of the few Cirque shows that include a narrative, it’s particularly involving.

Early this year, Ka reworked some of the signature wire work that marks its epic ending battle. The changes are not striking compared to past productions, but the refined action will continue to send audience home in awe until Cirque opens its next Vegas production.