Variety shows are not a thing of the past. What Americans came to know as variety shows began in the late 1800s with British and American stage shows called “music halls” in the United Kingdom and “vaudeville” in the United States.
These show formats were adapted to movies, radio, and television starting in the 1930s. The last major variety shows were broadcast in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Thanks to Las Vegas, people can still enjoy the live variety show format. Of course, they’re a lot bigger and better than ever, and they only slightly resemble their vaudeville and music hall ancestors in production and format.
Las Vegas offers so many shows that it’s impossible to take them all in, and if you’ve never been to Las Vegas before, choosing can be overwhelming.
Although some shows are seasonal while others run for many years, how do you narrow the list down to the seven “best” choices?
It’s not easy, and I am sure people have other ideas. But I looked at reviews and the general uniqueness of these shows among dozens. These shows are too good to miss! Check out the seven best Las Vegas shows below.
1 – Beatleshow at Planet Hollywood
There have been several Beatles tribute shows since the band broke up in the early 1970s. Even today, the Beatles are considered one of the most influential musical groups of the modern era. The evolution of their music, from simple party songs in the early 1960s to groundbreaking experimental progressive rock music, launched an entire generation of musical experimentation.
Books, movies, and TV shows have been made about the Beatles. You’ll find thousands of videos of them on YouTube and other streaming services. The legacy of the Beatles is unmatched by any other musical group.
Fans all over the globe rave about the Beatleshow at Planet Hollywood. The performers look and sound like the boys from the 1960s.
Performances daily at 5:30 PM in the Saxe Theater inside the Miracle Mile Shops.
3663 S Las Vegas Blvd,
Las Vegas, NV 89109-1950
2 – Mystère by Cirque du Soleil at Treasure Island
It’s hard to describe a Cirque du Soleil show in just a few words. These shows combine music, artistic design, acrobatic movements, and sophisticated dance choreography to create an amazing display of strength, balance, coordination, and artistic expression.
The performers transition through different movements and themes. There’s so much going on that you don’t know whether to watch the stage where dancers might be flipping or whirling or to look up and watch a solo artist perform with a metal cube or a team of trapeze artists dance through the air.
My first thought when watching a performance was that Cirque du Soleil is where Olympic athletes go when they’re done with competitive sports. Skills required to perform in a show like this are world-class.
Audience reactions are mixed, and the show’s format is confusing. I won’t try to explain it, but if you plan to see two or more Cirque performances, you should head over to the Treasure Island to see this one first.
Venue: Cirque du Soleil performs daily at Treasure Island Hotel in Las Vegas.
3300 S Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
3 – O by Circue du Soleil at Bellagio
Cirque du Soleil shows are all about fantasy. The best description I can think of about “O” is that it is a water ballet turned into a mime opera. From synchronized water sprite dancing to gracefully floating horses, you never know what to expect to appear on stage next at this show, hosted by the Bellagio Hotel & Casino.
There are acrobats and musicians and artists who scamper around the auditorium. There are sights that simply cannot be described.
If anything, the engineering is almost as much a star of the show as any of the performers. But there’s the wide range of musical styles and dancing, too. It’s hard not to rave about this show.
Venue: Cirque du Soleil’s O is performed daily at 7 PM at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino.
3600 S Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
4 – Le Reve – The Dream at the Wynn
Le Reve – The Dream is also a water show that mixes music, acrobatics, and dance to tell a cinematic story in 3D. It’s not a Cirque du Soleil production but compares well with the Cirque du Soleil tradition.
The theater inside the Wynn provides stadium seating completely around the tank and there seem to be no bad seats in the house. Acrobats come down in a circle, so everyone gets a good look at a part of the show.
If I had to distinguish between this production and the Cirque du Soleil performances, I guess I would say Le Reve is more Americanized and Cirque du Soleil has a more European feel. I’m not sure that’s a fair description to any of these shows and their performers.
The stage engineering is every bit as impressive as in the Circue du Soleil shows, but the show is more about the performances than the set in Le Reve – The Dream. The finale is amazing, as it should be.
Venue: Le Reve – The Dream opens twice daily at the Wynn Las Vegas, at 7 PM and 9 PM.
3131 S Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89198
5 – The Mob Dinner Club
This show may not be for everyone, but if you’re interested in American Mafia history and culture, and everyone knows Las Vegas has a historical connection to the mob, you need to take in this show. The star attraction is restaurant owner Sal Polisi, a real-life former New York mobster.
You’ll spend an intimate five hours with Sal, as he cooks dinner and shares stories about his life as a Mafia associate.
It’s all part of the mob mystique, of course. The club has a Facebook page where you can see pictures and read about news related to the mob (like upcoming books and TV specials).
The cuisine is Italian food in case you’re not sure. People say it’s to die for.
6007 Dean Martin Dr
Las Vegas, NV 89118
6 – Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur
If you’re a fan of the Heath Ledger movie A Knight’s Tale, you’ll probably enjoy this show. All that’s missing is Heath and Paul Bettany.
Patrons are treated to the full pageantry of an anachronistic medieval jousting tournament and other deeds of derring-do and dastardly dissonance. The show is loud, full of horses and jesters, and quite
dirty, as in, the horses are galloping across a dirt-covered floor.
Audiences are thrilled by the spectacle of it all. The performers ham it up for cheers and jeers while knights battle on horseback and foot. If you’re thinking modern pro wrestling has met up with King Arthur’s court at Camelot, that about sums it up.
The show’s soundtrack has a brash cinematic feel to it, and the stunts are reminiscent of every movie from Robin Hood to James Bond. Even though it’s all carefully staged, it’s obvious the performers are working up a sweat.
This show is a treat for the whole family, and you don’t have to worry about dressing up when heading over to the Excalibur Hotel & Casino.
Tournament of Kings is performed six days a week at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino.
3850 S Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
7 – V – The Ultimate Variety Show at Planet Hollywood
If there is a show that retains something of the old vaudeville spirit it is probably this one.
If vaudeville had survived as more than a parody of itself on various TV shows, V is probably what it would look like today.
Venue: Shows are performed daily at V Theater at Planet Hollywood inside the Miracle Mile Shops.
3663 S Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109
Having read this far, you’ll notice I didn’t write much about food. There are so many good restaurants in Las Vegas that if you see a show only for the food, then you should skip the show.
Every one of these shows is either accompanied by a meal or located close to a respectable restaurant. For a family night out or a date night, you won’t have to travel very far to eat and be entertained.