Which of the Las Vegas shows do I recommend? Among the Cirque du Soleil shows, O and KA, plus Love if you want to worship at the Beatles shrine. Among the condensed Broadway makeovers, Spamalot is as good as on Broadway, Phantom is better, Stomp is about the same and The Producers is disappointing. So is the one showgirl revue I saw, Jubilee.
Mystere at Treasure Island: This is basic Cirque, close to all those tent shows but with the expansiveness that permanence allows. There is less subservience to technology than elsewhere in Vegas and more focus on individual acts.
O at Bellagio: Cirque s second Vegas creation (1998) is its best chick show soft, sensual and flowing like the water that is its element. It takes place on, in, above and under a 1.5 million-gallon pool and also in the air above. It s the most seamless of the bunch.
KA at MGM Grand: The guy-show alternative Twelfth Night meets Star Wars, one critic said and I felt parallels to the movies Brazil, Waterworld and Road Warrior, but with a medieval Asian motif. I loved it. The organizing story concerns a twin prince and princess, who, separated, must fight their way back to each other against fiendish warrior antagonists, finding their own love allies along the way.
Love at the Mirage: A concert, really, with 29 Beatles songs (and snippets of many more) from remastered original tapes, supervised by George Martin and son and played over three speakers for each seat. A large cast on a full-round stage creates a grand array of active images. This is the flower-bedecked Beatles, very pretty, very up and festive.
Zumanity at New York, New York: The sensual side of Cirque, they say, but it feels like wink-wink, nudge-nudge sexual cabaret, dominated by unfunny clowning and a raunchy mistress of ceremonies determined to tell us how naughty and daring we all are. And yes, there s a lot of male skin as well as female.
Le Reve at Wynn: Not Cirque, but Cirquelike, since it is the creation of Franco Dragone. Much of it is reminiscent of O, since there is plenty of water ballet, including astonishingly long underwater ballet with lovely legs and red pumps flashing a la Busby Berkeley.
Spamalot at Wynn: Close to its Broadway roots, but since Eric Idle s transformation of Monty Python s Holy Grail into a stage musical was influenced by Vegas show-biz values to start, it makes the easiest transition. The Producers at Paris Las Vegas: A disappointment, because the condensation has cut out much of its heart the warm relationship between Max and Leo. It starts well and the performances are fine, but the show s second half is especially rushed.
Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular at Venetian: This is my favorite Phantom, although I m no great Phantom fan. Cutting the limp book puts the focus where it really belongs, on the music and decor.
Stomp Out Loud at Planet Hollywood: See the difference? Stomp is that show we ve seen on tour, but Stomp Out Loud must be even more extrovert, in the Vegas manner. The charm of the show is in small things, such as the deft little rhythms with which it begins and the cocky guy off at the side who keeps stealing the spotlight.
Jubilee at Bally s: A living dinosaur of a show, a throwback to earlier times, with scores of lavishly topless showgirls, accompanied by pleasant but undistinguished singers doing bland versions of Gershwin and other standards.