At a Glance
What is it?
Um… that’s a really good question. It’s kind of hard to explain in one sentence so read the full review.
Where is it?
In the Rose.Rabbit.Lie theater space inside the Cosmopolitan on the Center Strip.
Is it worth the cost?
Well… another good question. Read the review.
Why should I see this show?
Because you like Absinthe, you’re curious, and you have a REALLY open mind.
What else do I need to know?
The less you know about the better, I think.
What’s the bottom line?
One of the weirdest and yet compellingly entertaining shows in Las Vegas.
I’ve been struggling trying to come up with a succinct way to describe this show, but this production flagrantly defies you to sum it up in some sort of pithy sentence that explains everything. I think I could write a War and Peace sized treatise on Opium and still not explain everything. So I’m just going to go with this – it’s a non-binary gong show soap opera musical set in space.
Intrigued? Confused? Both? Get in line.
Probably one of the most important things to know about this show is that it is from Spiegelworld, the company that produces Absinthe at Caesars Palace, which I still consider to be the best show in Las Vegas. They also did the short-lived Vegas Nocturne in this same space at the Cosmo, a show that I thought was even better than Absinthe. But if you have seen one of their productions before you know that they really embrace the offbeat and here at Opium they are letting their proverbial freak flag fly.
So the concept, as I was able to piece through it, is that you are brought aboard the space ship Opium, which is traveling from Uranus (yes, there are quite a few obvious jokes about that) to Las Vegas. The crew of the ship presents what can best be described as a play of sorts, with scripted dialogue that follows the saga of a new recruit, a robot seeking love, a horny space creature, a leather-clad lieutenant, and others as they try to get to their final destination. So that’s the soap opera in space part.
The gong show part comes in between these scenes as various variety acts take the stage to amaze, confuse, and confound you. These are kind of like the acts you’ll see in Absinthe only smaller in scale and a lot weirder. There’s a juggler, a sword-swallower, a balance artist with a chihuahua (the dog balances on him while he balances on other things), a magician, a hula-hoop twirler, and others. They are all silly diversions but every one of them was amazing in their own way, leaving the audience in awe more than once.
There’s also a drag queen that sings periodically with a live band just to add a little more drama to the proceedings. She helps tick the non-binary and musical boxes and watching her climb across seats and dance in heels higher than should be allowed by law was almost as impressive as the guy who swallowed swords. Both of them and others in the cast push the heteronormative boundaries of gender identity and sexuality, often for comic purposes. This risks offending pretty much everyone straight and gay but they somehow manage to tread a fine line and make it work. The sword swallower’s offhand comments were laugh-out-loud funny if unprintable in a space like this one.
Opium is a mixed bag, to be sure. This scripted soap opera part of the show is earnest and works as a framing device for the gong show portions but it isn’t always exactly funny or even comprehensible. The variety acts are undeniably entertaining but lack the kind of take your breath away drama that acts in sister show Absinthe do.
In the end, though, I walked away totally perplexed but with an amused smile on my face so I guess that means I had a good time but I’m still not really sure.