Las Vegas, home of the endless buffets, gambling until your wallet cries, and fantastic acts of magic, music and dance. Some of the most famous singers and magicians in the world have done their thing in Vegas, from Céline Dion to Sinatra to Britney Spears, David Blaine to Elvis to David Copperfield! All of these acts put in enormous amount of time, energy, effort and practice to bring the audience the most entertaining couple of hours they will experience all year.
Carrot Top is famous for his inventive and continuous use of props and gags- probably the most famous use of props in comedic history. Carrot Top has sold out Luxor’s enormous showroom since 2004 and filled Hollywood Theatre at MGM Grand for 15 weeks a year from 1996 to 2003. He’s a regular on talk shows like Howard Stern, The Tonight Show and others, where he shows his gift of gab.
He’s hilarious and determined to be creative and on the cutting edge of performance comedic art, which he succeeds in doing. His humor has been called “dark and sick” so this act is definitely age appropriate audiences only!
So unexpected — who would have thought that Prince would do a Vegas act?! Maybe it’s not so hard to believe a man known for his continuously evolving style and sound would want to crack a new kind of performance. There he was in the Rio for a handful of months in late 2006 and early 2007. He worked on the fly for his set, and brought guests like Chaka Khan to the stage in addition to playing his guitar like it was an instrument of the gods.
Prince even opened his own restaurant! And west of the 15, there it was, the enormous symbol of ‘the artist formerly known as Prince.’ S Club 3121 was Prince’s creation and he handled it with the deft and skilled passion of the artist that he was — a consummate performer and artist in full command of his artistry and his audience. We miss him.
Somehow Vegas just doesn’t say ‘country’, but Garth Brooks made it scream country! Steve Wynn loaned Brooks a performing platform as well as a private jet so he could maintain his residence in Oklahoma. Brooks played a one man show with his voice, his songs, and his guitar. He played his own songs, as well as the songs of those he admired, such as James Taylor, folk artist Bob Seger, Ricky Scaggs and George Jones.
He riffed with the audience, joking about his out of tune guitar or comparing his voice to other greats. In November Garth Brooks closed the show after three years of sold-out nights at Encore Theater. Without a bunch of dazzling sets or lights or displays–and without even a backup band–Garth Brook dazzled Las Vegas for three years straight.
It wouldn’t be a Vegas list if we didn’t include Wayne! Wayne Newton is THE consummate Vegas performer. At one point Newton himself estimated he performed more than 30,000 shows in Las Vegas. They don’t call him “Mr. Las Vegas” for no reason! Originally Wayne was part of the Newton Brothers act at the Fremont Hotel, Wayne went out on his own and played at hotels. He was known to fill in for Sammy Davis Jr. at the Sands when Davis called in sick and made a name for himself with his dependability and entertainment guarantee.
Wayne Newton became the headlining act at the Frontier and often played multiple showrooms in different hotels in a single evening. A gentleman and dapper to a T, Wayne Newton represents the long-standing traditions of Vegas performers with class, style, professionalism, and talent.
Elvis’ Vegas debut was in 1956 when he was only 21 years old. At the International and Las Vegas Hilton, Elvis had 837 consecutive sellouts from 1969, when he opened at the then-International, through 1976 at the then named Hilton Hotel. At Elvis’ opening night in 1969, more than 2,000 fans turned up, with the line stretching into the hotel’s front lobby. Of course, Elvis is a Vegas staple, with Elvis marriage boutiques where couples can be married by audacious Elvis impersonators.
His Vegas shows were loud, rock n’ roll and full of the in-between-set charm that won over all Elvis’ female fans.
It used to be that when you heard the name Céline Dion you thought of the Titanic soundtrack song, “My Heart Will Go On.” Now, it’s just as likely you will think of her amazing Vegas act at the Colosseum. Since 2003, she has blown ticket sales and performances out of the water with her over the top, operatic voice and stage shows. At the height of her career, she chose to stick to Vegas, possibly for the predictability that schedule would bring as she had children.
Céline Dion’s show includes Cirque-style acrobats, dancing, dazzling video work, and a full orchestra. She became a verified money maker for Vegas and draws huge crowds.
Wayne Newton may be ‘Mr. Las Vegas’, but he still must bow to the master of Vegas headliners, Liberace: ‘Mr. Showmanship.’ Famous for his handcrafted capes and glittering suits, his over the top jewels and amazing coif, his jewel encrusted pianos and microphones, Liberace flew over his audiences (literally- supported by cables!) and dazzled generations with his flair and craft and musicianship.
His piano playing was of high excellence, as Liberace has been classically trained since sixteen years of age. He had his own national variety show as well as televised specials from the Las Vegas Hilton. At his peak, Liberace earned an unheard of $50,000.00 a week at the Riviera.
Those of a certain generation will remember Copperfield as THE magician: for a period of time, he was the world’s most famous magician. Acclaimed for what might be his most known magic trick: vanishing the Statue of Liberty, he also sold more tickets than any other individual entertainer in history, despite the fact that he wasn’t ‘only’ a Vegas performer, but instead had television shows, specials, and interviews regularly, as well as performing around the world.
Still, he’s been doing 15 shows a week at MGM for years and hasn’t let up. He is continuously revising his magic show, although he’s not in the media as often now, such as when he was dating supermodel Claudia Schiffer.
Charo’s catchphrase was the cloyingly said in a sing-song voice, “cuchi-cuchi.” Charo was a classical Flamenco guitarist, but her husband and manager, Xavier Cugat, wanted to promote her as a sex-bomb with comedy chops, so that is what Charo’s act was: she sang, she played, she spoke purposefully over the top broken English and entertained generations of Vegas audiences.
In the early 1970s she was the headlining act in the Sahara’s Congo Room. She performed regularly on the Strip at venues like Caesars Palace’s Circus Maximus and Tropicana’s Tiffany Theatre. Many will remember her regular ( and very wiggly!) appearances on The Love Boat in the 1980’s.
Tom Jones is a classic Las Vegas crooner, known for charming underpants and bras straight from the audience onto the stage. Although he hasn’t performed at the MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theatre since 2010, he had an epic run that cemented his place in Vegas act history. So maybe he’s done in Vegas, but what a ride it’s been. Since Elvis Presley, Tom Jones has been singing in Vegas, and up until his seventies!
The New York Times said Tom Jones voice “could “slide from soulful rasp to pop croon, with a voice as husky as it was pretty.” Jones has received a Grammy and a MTV Music Award as well as some top British awards: he was even knighted!
You may know her famous name even if you can’t place who she is. During the 1970s and early ’80s, Falana was hard to miss: she was often on television, dancing, singing or being interviewed on shows like The Tonight Show. Known for her beauty, she was also very talented, with a beautiful, soulful voice that had trained with none less than Sammy Davis Jr.
In the later 1970’s, she contracted to sing and dance at the Aladdin 20 weeks a year for $100,000 a week. That made her the then highest-paid female performer in Vegas history. Later in life, she became known for speaking out about the disease multiple sclerosis, which she has been diagnosed with.
“Ole Blue Eyes” has a long and storied legend as a Vegas performer. Part of the legendary ‘Rat Pack,’ Sinatra made his Vegas debut in 1951 headlining at the Desert Inn as a seasoned solo artist. Las Vegas was just beginning to emerge as a desired desert destination for relaxation and entertainment when Sinatra began his tenure.
A Smithsonian article said ” “He was the spark that changed Vegas from a dusty Western town into something glamorous.” While Sinatra became a Copa Room headliner, he also became a co-owner of the famous Sands, truly laying stake to the future of Las Vegas. Over the next twenty years, Sinatra’s performances in Vegas cemented his legend as one of the most influential and beloved crooners of his time.
Bobby Darin performed at the Sahara and Flamingo often in Las Vegas, one of the classic and best remembered singers of Vegas lore. Darin had a wonderfully broad range, even writing the timeless hit “Danke Schoen” for Wayne Newton. Darin’s most famous song has to be “Mack the Knife. Darin’s 15-year singing career crossed into pop, folk, rock and country music. Bobby Darin also had appearances in television and the movies.
Bobby Darin said he wanted to be a legend by 25 and he was a legend when he died at 37 when he died of heart failure. “Bobby never left us,” Vegas icon Wayne Newton said of his friend. Darin died after heart surgery.
Louis Prima and his sidekick Neely Smith were the original blockbusters of lounge entertainment in Vegas. His act at the Sahara’s Casbar Lounge in the 1950’s was dubbed “The Wildest Show in Las Vegas,” with Prima playing his horn like a madman and Smith playing it cool. With sax player Sam Butera and the band The Witnesses, Prima played his way into a record contract with Capitol Records.
Prima and his band often went into the crowd while blowing their horns, bringing audience engagement to a new level. The song “Jump, Jive an’ Wail” and the famous “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” were showcased at the Casbar, the birthplace of Las Vegas lounge acts.
Penn and Teller
The famous magic act of the brotherly duo, Penn and Teller, is now one of the top Vegas shows ever. Together, they have been working their mighty illusions since 1975. In the 1980’s they began to become truly famous, and in 1993, they had their first Vegas show. Called ‘The Bad Boys of Magic’ they are mischievous and inventive in their shows, keeping the audience on their toes.
The Penn and Teller Magic Show continues at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino which they made their permanent residence in 2001. The duo mixes comedy and magic, with Teller famously remaining near mute throughout the show, using only hand motions and facial expressions to clue the audience into his response to what is going on.
The Rat Pack
One of the most famous groups of entertainers to ever exist, The Rat Pack consisted of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford. It their friend Humphrey Bogart (the famous actor) wife, Lauren Bacall, who referred to the group of men as a “rat pack,” and the monicker stuck like glue.
In the early 1960’s they appeared together at the Copa Room after filming location shots for Ocean’s 11, in now-legendary shows now called the “Summit At The Sands.” Some now say Sammy Davis Jr. is the funnest entertainer in history. They were funny, charming, and bantered back and forth on stage, and they were backed by the best band in the land, the Count Basie Orchestra. Sometimes they rolled a bar on stage while they smoked!
In 1965 The Checkmates were a highly unusual experience for audiences, being an interracial act headlining on the Strip. Their Vegas career began at Pussycat A Go Go, a casino near the old Desert Inn. Three members of the band were black, including the singers Marvin “Sweet Louie” Smith and Sonny Charles, while the other two were white.
The group performed at Caesars, the Flamingo, International, Hilton and Sands. They toured with Frank Sinatra and Bill Cosby and developed a solid professional reputation for delivering a good time and great music. The group recorded the Top 10 song, “Black Pearl,” in 1969. After Sweet Louie died in 2007, Charles joined the Steve Miller Band.
Siegfried & Roy
Roy Horn and Siegfried Fischbacher became synonymous with Vegas as another planet: a place where women are sawed in half; elephants were made to vanish from inside draped cages; tigers were man’s best friend, and lions were completely tame. The magicians themselves frequently vanished and used classic and satisfying props like giant plums of smoke and flashes of light to wow the audience.
Siegfried & Roy’s couldn’t have been Siegfried and Roy anywhere else more perfectly than in Vegas. In 2003 the show at Mirage was suddenly and irrevocably closed after Roy Horn was seriously injured from a neck bite from one of his tigers. He survived with major brain damage and defended the tiger, saying the beast was simply trying to protect him.
Blue Man Group
The Blue Man Group is one of the best known Vegas acts and a mishmash of everything: theater, rock concert and dance party all at one time in the Luxor Hotel and Casino. They have their own theater, too. Kid friendly, so many families take in this show when in Vegas, and one of the cheaper shows, as well. This show has been mentioned and used in many plot lines on TV and in movies, including a long-running gag in the hilarious show Arrested Development.
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