Rio Suite's show puts guests in the spotlight


Las Vegas editor Amy Baratta recently helped entertain at the Rio Suite Hotel & Casino. Her report follows:

LAS VEGAS -- I can now officially say I've had my 15 minutes of fame. Actually, it turned out to be closer to 12 minutes, but as I was sitting in a float suspended from the ceiling of the Rio Suite Hotel & Casino, playing a tambourine and wearing a stuffed octopus on my head -- well, I wasn't about to quibble about the extra three minutes.

I had decided to join Rio's Masquerade Show in the Sky to see what it was like to be on the other side of a Las Vegas attraction. In short, I wanted to be a performer, not an observer.

catching beads Four other casino visitors -- a couple and a mother-daughter duo -- had paid $9.95 per person to fulfill that same desire, so there we were, loitering around the performance stage on the casino floor 45 minutes before the scheduled show time and waiting to be called into the costume area to prepare for our big moment. Once we got the official nod, we trouped into a backstage costume area, where our two assistants discussed safety issues and generally put us at ease.

Then it was time for the costumes. I had observed a prior performance of the Mardi Gras show from the casino floor and was entranced by the performers' funky get-ups. But that in no way prepared me for what was sitting in my designated clothing locker: strands and strands of gaudy, plastic Mardi Gras beads and a purple octopus costume complete with tentacles and headpiece. Our show, it turned out, would have a South of the Border theme complete with salsa music.

I donned my costume -- no mean feat with tentacles flailing and a two-foot-tall stuffed octopus sitting on my head -- and was then led to the float, a riverboat complete with smokestacks and a paddlewheel. A couple of the regular show performers were waiting there to instruct my group of octopi on the finer points of smiling, waving and getting the most noise out of the tambourines that had been placed in each of our seats.

And then we were off, our float lurching forward and moving around a track system built into the casino ceiling.

Below, I could see casino patrons pausing in their play to watch the floats pass overhead -- I can only imagine what they thought of five ridiculous-looking octopi whooping it up with their tambourines -- in addition to the performers dancing on the casino floor stage.

What was even more interesting was making eye contact with the crowd of people that had filled the upper level of Masquerade Village, Rio's retail shopping area, and watching the performer who was on our end of the float throw strands of Mardi Gras beads to the onlookers. She must have had hours of practice with this, because her throws were as deadly accurate as those of a Major League Baseball player. The only thing she would not do -- she later explained that regulations prohibited it -- was toss the necklaces to anyone standing on the casino floor.

We made two passes above the casino, and then our float headed toward the wings.

My hand had developed a blister -- I'm guessing from the death grip I had on the tambourine -- and my head was sweating from being under hot lights and my octopus headgear. Ah, showbiz. It's not always as glamorous as it looks.

Attraction features three themes

LAS VEGAS -- Rio Suite Hotel & Casino's Masquerade Show in the Sky begins on the hour every other hour from noon to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. There are no shows on Wednesdays.

The show, which is free to observers, lasts about 12 minutes and features dancers and musicians both on the casino floor stage and in floats that travel along a track in the casino ceiling.

Three different show themes alternate during the day: South of the Border, which combines the sights and sounds of carnivale from Rio de Janeiro to the Caribbean; Mardi Gras, which mixes Cajun jazz and rock 'n' roll in a New Orleans Mardi Gras theme, and Venice, which captures the essence of Venetian carnivale.

As in real Mardi Gras celebrations, performers aboard the floats throw strands of plastic beads to spectators; however, regulations prohibit them from throwing the necklaces to anyone standing on the casino floor.

Visitors who want to be part of the show can purchase tickets at the Play Rio center; the cost is $9.95 per person. Participants must be at least four feet tall and those under the age of 16 must ride with an adult. For more information, contact the property at (800) PLAY-RIO.

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