Las Vegas is pretty exciting for first-timers like us! Our days overflow with adventures. And in this “Broadway of the West,” musicals fill three evenings.
One of Cirque du Soleil’s seven Las Vegas productions, Love, kicks off our visit. Bobbies seat us above a circular stage for this Beatle’s extravaganza. Scenes of war-torn England quickly dissolve as swirling dancers, acrobats and soaring aerialists portray early crowd-pleasers: Get Back, Eleanor Rigby, I Am the Walrus and Hey Jude! Trampolinists, break-dancers and in-line skaters rocket us straight into Revolution!
Intricately choreographed, performers hover, whirl and beguile everyone through magical vignettes interpreting further lyrical hits. Sergeant Pepper’s troupe marches us into the rainbow era of peace and love; a kaleidoscope of artistes presents a resplendent Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Lady Madonna and sumptuous Octopus’s Garden!
Interspersed film clips add the Beatles’ zany presence to this spectacle. John, Paul, George and Ringo are imagined loudly applauding Cirque’s lavish, artistic celebration of their music, just as we do.
The following night, Jersey Boys re-enacts early gigs, high-jinx… and jail terms of another renowned ’60s quartet. Led by Frankie Valli’s angelic falsetto, we see him and his harmonious buddies struggle from bowling alleys to recording studios… and huge success as the Four Seasons. Chart-toppers such as Big Girls Don’t Cry; Walk Like a Man and Sherry wow us.
Overcoming serious setbacks, they teach us tough life lessons, intensified through their heart-wrenching melodies. After the group breaks up, studio managers consistently reject a ballad written for Frankie. Eventually accepted, Frankie records My Eyes Adored You, his biggest selling solo record. Incredibly inspiring, Jersey Boys ends on a high note, delighting us all!
And Donnie and Marie proves an extraordinary nightclub show. During a dynamic opening filled with new songs and dance numbers, these show biz icons never looked better! Country specialist Marie even reveals her love of opera with a beautiful aria from Puccini’s Turando. Family slides and videos accompany songs from both triumphant careers. As sis belts out Paper Roses and brother Puppy Love, nostalgic clips show them introducing these hits as teens. In honouring mentor Andy Williams, Donnie croons, Moon River as we watch him on William’s show at age five… and funny shticks of sibling rivalry lead into familiar duets from their long-running TV program. During a standing ovation, Chris quips, “Y’know, after 50 years’ practice… they SHOULD be this great!”
Las Vegas also offers haute cuisine. Joining the new foodie generation, we sample nouveau vittles. At Mirage’s Japonais, we savour succulent sushi; at the Aria’s Juan Serranos, authentic Spanish tapas with luscious sangrias. Even the ambiences are extraordinary! The Aria offers a hotel art walk; Serranos’ restrooms provide amusing Spanish lessons. At Paris Las Vegas, we sup under blue-sky ceilings at Le Burger, a sidewalk café.
Later, we admire panoramas of the glittering downtown from its faux Eiffel Tower. At Caesar’s Palace, we dine in a pseudo Roman city beside Trevi Fountain. Following fresh pasta here, we sample tiramisu, spumoni… and even ice-cream spaghetti with dark chocolate meatballs. Leaving through glittering hallways and mall-ways of statuary, we notice that Fountain of the Gods delivers sound and light shows starring an animated Bacchus, Venus, Apollo and Pluto.
And buffets still flourish. Inside Caesar’s Palace, Bacchanal’s master chefs offer global menus. Show kitchens offer scrumptiously fresh Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and American specialties; other stations prepare seafood, pizza, deli fare and desserts.
One night, we walk the famous Vegas Strip. Starting at Treasure Island, we watch a ghost ship’s girly go-go crew battle acrobatic buccaneers from an oncoming red-sailed pirate ship in flashy, splashy and explosive entertainment! Onward, amusing buskers line bustling sidewalks: Batman and the Joker, Sci-fi Transformers, Smurfs, a Grinch and, of course, pompadored Elvises.
At Fountains of Bellagio, we see the hotel take on a purple hue above its eight-acre lake. Over a thousand computer-syncopated nozzles blast sparkling, dancing streams, some leaping over five-stories as Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman passionately sing Con Te Partiro. Spanning busy intersections on pedestrian bridges, we encounter folk guitarists, frenzied drummers, a string quartet and kilted piper. Beyond New York, New York complete with Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty, our three-kilometre stroll concludes at MGM Grand… in our home suite home.
Visiting old downtown, vintage Vegas proves another winsome activity. Fremont Street now bustles as a pedestrian mall; zipliners fly like birds above us. Inside the refurbished D Hotel, we find Nevada’s longest bar and antique coin games, including a miniature, mechanical horserace; one gregarious group cheers on tiny jockeys racing around the track.
Just past the Neon Museum, the former courthouse, now the home of the new Mob Museum, beckons. Exhibits there detail Mafia history, how gangsters flourished during prohibition… and how even Al Capone funded a popular soup kitchen. Some visitors pose against a replicated bullet-studded wall of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, where Capone eliminated seven Chicago competitors. A bystander snaps our picture as gun moll and wise guy in a mock line-up. Upstairs we watch movie footage of Senator Kefauver grilling gangsters during his famed hearings in the old courtroom.
One room features another crime fighter Elliot Ness and his surveillance techniques, such as wiretapping. Another highlights gangster movies. Interestingly, three films portray “connected” locals. Bugsy depicts Bugsy Siegel, who famously boosted Las Vegas development while managing the Flamingo Hotel for Lansky’s National Crime Syndicate. And in The Godfather, Mario Puzo based characters Moe and Johnny Fontane on the real lives of Bugsy Siegal and Frank Sinatra. Casino reveals the life of Chicago’s Lefty Rosenthal, who secretly ran the Stardust, while safely residing near “the action” inside the local gated Country Club.
And the spas! Masseurs give us soothing rubdowns. Aromatic lemongrass and new age music accentuate healing touches proven to enhance blood circulation. While kneading out knotty stress, one tells us that Bob Hope enjoyed daily massages – and lived to be 100!
Another spa offers yoga with dolphins. Instructor Willow explains how these mammals frolicking in the adjacent pool stimulate oxytocin, a natural hormone reducing stress. Linked by underwater windows, we attune minds and bodies, stretching into downward-facing dogs, arching our backs as cats and rising as mountains. While assisting individuals with pose and balance difficulties, she tells everyone, “Remember, success does not depend on touching your toes. Gentle stretches best increase flexibility in your muscles and joints.”
Though tours of nearby Red Rock, Fire and Grand Canyons are available, we choose a raft ride below Hoover Dam. Once aboard, our captain explains, “This Dam was constructed during The Depression using unprecedented engineering. Primarily built for flood control, it also supplies water and produces electricity. Traffic crawled across Black Canyon atop the dam until that beautiful Colorado River Bridge was completed in 2010.”
The water proves cold and clear. “Above us, Lake Mead cools and filters out sediment, creating perfect conditions for the rainbow trout and striped bass that our fishermen and cormorants love!” He grins, “It’s called Black Canyon because manganese-oxidizing microbes, known as desert varnish, have blackened most of the steep walls. But as you can see, the cormorants are whitewashing it!”
During our three-hour flight home, we rave over the surprising variety of fun-filled activities and entertainments available in Las Vegas.
When You Go:
* Las Vegas Visitor’s Bureau: www.LVCVA.com
* MGM Grand: www.mgmgrand.com
* Caesar’s Palace: www.caesarspalace.com
* Paris Las Vegas: www.parislasvegas.com
* Flamingo Hotel: www.flamingolasvegas.com
* Mob Museum: www.themobmuseum.org
MARCH 2013 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE