Absinthe is hard to classify, but if forced I would say it is part circus and part cabaret. I heard good things about it, and since I, personally, hadn't reviewed a show in ages, I decided to give it a try. I purchased tickets about three hours before the show on a busy Friday night with a discount from Tix 4 Tonight. As a local, it is almost against my religion to pay full price for a Vegas show.
What first surprised me is the small size of the venue. Absinthe plays in a real circus tent in front of Caesars Palace, close to the pedestrian bridges leading to the Bellagio and Bill's Gambling Hall. The stage is in the center of the tent with about eight rows of chairs encircling it. VIP seating was along the back wall and offered nicer chairs and more elbow room. If there is one complaint I have with Absinthe it is the chairs are too small and placed too close together. If you have people on both sides of you, expect zero elbow room.
The tent walls were decorated with random things like hubcaps, bird cages, old signs, and items that looked they were purchased at the Golden West Community College swap meet. This decor does a good job at setting the mood for the show: they aim to appear low budget and don't take themselves too seriously.
If you haven't already figured out you're in for a different kind of show, you should get the hint when they give ubiquitous announcement about prohibiting pictures and videos. The way the emcee worded it from off stage, to the best of my memory, was, "First we have to get through some legal crap. Put away your f**king cameras so we can get on with this s**t."
Then the light over the stage came on where a man was seated at a table with a bottle. He seemed to be in a delirious state as he drank from it. This might be a good time to explain what the word "absinthe" means. It is a highly potent alcoholic spirit based on various flowers and herbs. Until recently, it was thought to contain psychedelic properties, leading many countries, including the United States, to ban it. However, such a reputation was probably undeserved, and it consequently became unbanned in 1990s. What does all this have to do with the show? It is my (probably incorrect) interpretation that the whole show is this drinker's absinthe-induced delusion.
Just when you were braced for anything, the first act was a completely legitimate and impressive act involving balancing one chair atop another as more and more were given to the builder at the top. There is a similar act in Mystere, but this one doesn't go as high, due to a lower ceiling. However, they make up for it by making the stack of chairs resemble a cocktail glass, with a long stem at the bottom and an impressive triangular shape at the top.
From there the show jumped to raunchy banter between the emcee and his highly sexually-charged assistant. Her best bit was a sock-puppet routine which is too vulgar to put into words. However, I loved it, and I've never heard an audience laugh so hard before, ever.
Meanwhile, the acrobatics of the show were every bit as good as what you'd see in a Cirque du Soleil show. The difference is in Absinthe the men are mostly in underwear and the women in lingerie or pasties. As I mentioned, the caliber of the circus acts is very high, and it takes a great deal of strength to do what they do. Thus, the bodies of the performers were toned to perfection. If you have any appreciate of the human form, of either gender, I think you'd find Absinthe worth every penny. Lest you think the show appeals only to straight men like me, I think there is even more to like for those who prefer men.
Just when you're titillated and amazed by the last circus act, the emcee changes temperatures with more vulgar comedy. Yet another memorable bit was when two audience members were chosen to come on stage. I won't blow what they were asked to do, but it goes way beyond what I've seen any Vegas hypnotist do, and they all claim to be naughtier than the last one. It went so far that I'm pretty sure they used audience stooges. However, the friend I went with thought their reactions were so believable that they had to be legitimate. Either way, the audience ate it up and were gasping in shock or laughing from deep in the belly.
With so many Cirque du Soleil shows in Vegas, I'm glad somebody finally poked fun at the format. The closest thing to compare Absinthe to is Zumanity. Yet, it is hard to compare them, because Zumanity takes itself so seriously. Overall it is how much you enjoy a show that counts, and speaking only for myself, I enjoyed Absinthe more by an order of magnitude. This is definitely a show I would be proud to recommend and eager to see again, and I don't say that often.
Tue-Sun 8pm + 10pm on Tue, Thur, and Sat.
Circus tent outside Caesars Palace
Price: $110.80 to $204.25 (including taxes).