V: Ultimate Variety
At a Glance
What is it?
As its name would imply, a variety show featuring everything from magicians to singers to acrobats and dog acts depending on when you visit.
Where is it?
Is it worth the cost?
It may not be high art, but it is fun so yes.
Why should I see this show?
Because you miss the old-school variety shows of days gone by.
What else do I need to know?
The theater isn’t exactly what you might call comfortable.
What’s the bottom line?
This is an enjoyable show if you go in with your expectations firmly in check.
The variety revue has been a staple in Las Vegas since the first neon lights began twinkling decades ago. Usually you’d find miscellaneous acts like jugglers, magicians, and maybe a trained dog or two in between the main event, whether that be a singer or a dozen showgirls, but today Cirque du Spectacles rule the Strip, so what is a good comic juggler or magician without a white tiger to do? Inquire with the good folks at “V: The Ultimate Variety Show,” which takes the best of these variety acts and puts them into one tidy package at their own theater in the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood.
Before we get to the acts, I’d be remiss in not giving a few demerits to the theater itself, which has tightly packed tables in the front and tightly packed rows of theater style seats in the back. Most of the seating is first come-first serve and this results in a bit of a cluster you-know-what to get in and an uncomfortable seating experience once you do.
The acts themselves run the variety gamut. Although they change every now and then, it’s a fair bet to say that what I saw will be a fair representation of what will be there if you decide to see the show.
The show is hosted by comic juggler Wally Eastman, who is a genial and cheery presence. His juggling is nothing short of astounding and what he can do with a series of top hats is cheer worthy.
First up on the night I saw the show were the Crazy Gauchos, a pair of bolero wearing guys who drum, stomp, and twirl rhythmic balls on strings. When they are doing their percussion bits they were great, but in between their “comedy” was not terribly funny and veered uncomfortably toward homophobic in places.
Next was a Russian strength and balance duo; two men who use each other to create intricate living sculptures of sorts. They were great but nothing terribly original. As a matter of fact I saw three shows in three nights (Mystere, Absinthe, and V) and each of them featured an almost identical act.
Melinda, the “First Lady of Magic,” used to have her own show in Vegas but after a brief retirement she has come back as part of V. Her act is filled with the kind of overly dramatic magic that makes my head hurt but it is impossible to deny that she is really good at it. Some of the illusions, which mostly involve people disappearing from, and popping up in, unexpected places were impressive.
Comedian Russ Merlin has been a part of this show for years and his act hasn’t changed a bit. That’s okay because it’s pretty funny as he brings up some hapless audience members to don masks and do silly things.
The last act was the best and the main reason why you should go see this show. The Skating Aratas are a husband and wife duo who do impossibly dangerous roller skating stunts on a tiny circular platform just inches from the audience. They spin, twirl, and flip around at high speeds with absolutely no safety net, which makes the audience both cringe and cheer in equal measure. It really is astounding and worth the ticket price alone.
With the exception of the Aratas, on their own the rest of the acts amount to nothing more than pleasant diversions – entertaining in their own way but not something you’d go out of your way to see. Put them together in one big package though and the overall effect is satisfying, if not particularly groundbreaking.
Then again, maybe turning the spotlight on these overlooked variety style acts is groundbreaking enough. It certainly is entertaining.