Viva Elvis, Las Vegas

On Saturday, Brandon and I went on a last-minute trip to Vegas to check out the new Aria hotel (part of the enormous CityCenter project) and its new Elvis-themed show.


The hotel is definitely one of the nicer Vegas offerings, and it certainly helps that everything is brand-new. They even pump a special scent into the building, so it smells more like spring than a smoky casino. As far as I can tell there’s no real theme to the hotel unlike some of the other major hotels on the strip, which I think works in their favor since themes can quickly look dated. It just feels like an upscale modern hotel with lots of glass and wood. The front desk service was a little slow but not terrible.

The standard room (it’s called a “deluxe” room, but there’s nothing cheaper than deluxe) is very comfortable. Here’s a shot that Brandon took:

hotel room

Everything in the room, including the lights, curtains, temperature, and do not disturb sign, could be controlled from a touchscreen display next to the beds or via the TV remote.

We ate dinner at Jean Philippe Patisserie (I had a ham & cheese panini; it was good) before the show. At the end of the night, we ate at Café Vettro, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner 24 hours a day. The menu looks very promising for a full meal, but we only had dessert. Here’s what the lava cake looks like:

fancy lava cake

I’d definitely eat there again.


CityCenter is massive, and one of its hotels is still under construction. We only checked out two of its buildings: Aria and Crystals. I think the only casino area is in Aria, so if you’re not into the whole gambling thing, CityCenter could be a nice escape if you wanted to stay on the strip but avoid the sounds of slot machines. We walked around Crystals a bit, which has some restaurants and high-end stores. One nice thing about CityCenter is that outside of most of the restaurants they had a touchscreen display with the restaurant’s menu.

poles covered in ice with colored lights shining on them

These are some ice poles in the Crystals building.

Wooden sculpture

This sculpture, also inside Crystals, contains a restaurant.

Viva Elvis

Overall, not a bad show, but certainly not the best Vegas production I’ve seen.

The theater was comfortable and had a classic look. I was seated in section 103 (row K, seat 7), which actually had benches instead of individual chairs for seating, with cup holders in front. The live musicians during the show were excellent, and seemed to be having fun throughout the performance. I think they also mixed in actual Elvis recordings for his vocals, since you never actually saw him sing on stage and there was just a slight hiss in the audio during his parts, but it was really well done. Like all of their productions (but especially Love), the show would still have been enjoyable if I sat through it with my eyes closed. But of course I kept my eyes open, as the talented circus performers that Cirque du Soleil is known for had some pretty good acts, mo”st notably the “Got A Lot of Livin’ To Do” super hero scene using trampolines. That was really fun to watch, and it looked like it would be fun to do.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to experience the full show. At one point, it became clear that they were about to do “Jailhouse Rock.” It seemed like they were leading up to something big for the well-known song; a couple of people walked across the stage behind bars of light, and there was a video projection of a jail’s hallway. But that was it. 30-45 seconds would go by with nothing but the video projection, and there would be a few seconds of performers dancing across the stage in chains. This went on for the entire song, and about a minute into it, you could tell by the audience looking around that we were all thinking the same thing: “Something’s missing.” When the song ended, they moved on to the next act as if nothing had happened. The show must go on. The rest of the show seemed to go smoothly aside from a minor glitch where the mic cut out for two words (“Las Vegas!”) while the character of Elvis’s manager was speaking. I don’t think there’s any English-speaking character in the other Cirque shows aside from “no cameras” announcements, so maybe they should just stick to that tradition.

As we were walking out, I considered asking one of the ushers if something went wrong during the “Jailhouse Rock” scene, but didn’t say anything, afraid that I would sound like a jerk if there was nothing missing. Later that night, I did some searching for [viva elvis jailhouse rock] to see if others had similar thoughts. The first snippet was of a review saying that the “the ‘Jailhouse Rock’ set has potential.” There was no set… maybe the review was being sarcastic? I couldn’t tell because all Yelp wanted to do was plug their app once they discovered that I was on a mobile phone. I checked another result, and saw descriptions of the scene as “the show’s signature piece” and “walking upside down” and “has to be seen to be believed.” Obviously, we had not seen what they were talking about.

By the time I was able to confirm that there had indeed been a big error, the box office was closed and we had a 6:50 AM flight the next day, so the chance of a refund or explanation was pretty much non-existant. I can understand that there can be technical glitches for such a complex production, but considering the scene’s importance and the price of admission, it was pretty disappointing that the staff didn’t acknowledge the problem after the show. It wasn’t a horrible experience, and it would certainly be worth watching if you really like Elvis, but if you’re looking to be wowed, Vegas has many better alternatives to offer.

Update on 7/6/2010: After contacting customer service, I’ve been offered discounted tickets to another show. Sounds reasonable to me. They confirmed that the set was immobilized which is why we experienced the “minimized number.”


But let’s not end on a sad note… Vegas is fun! Check out these shots Brandon got of the Bellagio fountain, my favorite Las Vegas attraction:

long exposure of Bellagio fountain

long exposure of Bellagio fountain

long exposure of Bellagio fountain

long exposure of Bellagio fountain

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