Vegas Vaudeville

A recent visit to Las Vegas caused me to realize that vaudeville is not nearly as dead as I thought it was. It has merely settled in Vegas.

As I looked around at the many performances advertised along the Strip, I couldn’t help but make comparisons between today’s entertainers and those of the vaudeville stage. The names of the entertainers have changed, but the acts remain remarkably constant.

For instance, in the ever-popular category of female vocalists, we now have Cher at Caesar’s Palace; for male vocalists, Garth Brooks. The brother and sister routine is alive and well with Donny and Marie, dancing, singing, and telling jokes. (Clean jokes, I might add, in the vaudeville tradition, since vaudeville was very much family entertainment.) Comedians are always in vogue, and on the Strip we have the likes of Joan Rivers and David Spade. Magicians are still around, just look at the 10-story banner advertising Lance Burton or the long-running act of David Copperfield.  Animal acts retain their popularity, as evidence by Siegfried and Roy. And acrobats, always a vaudeville staple, are well represented by the seven different shows put on by the fabulous Cirque de Soleil. “Transfigurators,” or vaudeville impersonators, were popular and still are—just look at the crowds lining up to see Elvis impersonators or the female impersonators who pose as Dolly Parton, Madonna, Britney Spears, and others. Burlesque is well represented too—and not just with titillating female acts, but with the Chippendales, hunky male strippers. In fact, the only category of acts that I couldn’t find in Vegas today were kiddie acts. Audiences used to love watching children dance, sing, act, or do acrobatics, but nothing I could find comes close to this today. Maybe compulsory education killed the kiddie acts?

Of course, the length of the acts is the main change. A vaudeville show usually consisted of nine or ten short acts lasting ten to fifteen minutes each, whereas today’s Vegas show is one long act that lasts an hour and a half or two hours.

Published in: on June 8, 2010 at 12:23 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,