If this were open-mike night and one had a few drinks under one's belt, it might be tolerable. However there's no excuse for charging Vegas visitors $40 and more for what is essentially Amateur Hour. The Magic of Paris is basically a bunch of half-baked unrelated acts thrown together and it's about as Parisian as a French fry. Its two showgirls frequently open umbrellas indoors - a harbinger of bad luck that is only too prophetic.
The producers of the show have chosen to open it with a video endorsement of headliner Stephane Vanel, delivered by Lance Burton. Not only does this raise (unfulfilled) expectations of Burton-like quality, it may lead to you spend the remainder of the evening wondering where Burton is these days ... and when he'll return to Vegas. Heck, you'd be better off walking the extra distance from Paris-Las Vegas to the Flamingo and watching Nathan Burton's magic show.
Either Burton is a pro; Vanel is scarcely more than a tyro. A former runway model with a cheesy grin to match, his basic shtick is to make cards, coins and ping-pong balls appear and disappear. It's familiar, standard-issue trickery and Vanel's execution is sufficiently sloppy that one can easily figure how out how he's doing it. You'd swear Vanel bought a dime-store magic kit the previous weekend and is showing off the rudimentary illusions he'd been able to not quite master in a couple of day's time.
The sleight of hand is no more convincing than Vanel's dodgy "French" accent or the depressingly obvious "plants" in the audience. Other than innumerable card tricks, the only other illusion up his sleeve is a standard girl-in-box act. Again, it's so apathetically staged that even a child wouldn't be fooled. Vanel's lazy show feels like a display of contempt for the audience, padded out with frequent dance numbers.
The aforementioned showgirls go grimly through their paces, mechanical grins soldered to their faces. Those paces include a dance number that's supposedly inspired by - but has no discernible relationship to - The Matrix. At least that's preferable to the baggy-pants comic with whom Vanel shares stage time. The not-so-funnyman plays "Auld Lang Syne" with his nose on a violin, if that's your idea of hilarity, and also does a "midget" act that's in highly questionable taste.
Occasional marionette interludes are performed by Anthony Rais and his puppets. Since the artifice here is obvious, one can sit back and enjoy the craftsmanship on display. It's the only part of The Magic of Paris that doesn't feel like a cheat. Besides, there are fewer performance venues in Vegas with worse sightlines than the "Anthony Cools Experience," where Vanel performs. As one disenchanted spectator put it, "This isn't a showroom so much as space with chairs."
The Magic of Paris
4 p.m. & 6 p.m., Mon.-Sun.
3655 Las Vegas Blvd. S.
$40.54 & $55.54