Tacky? Campy? Sure, but shows entertain, too

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We all enjoy our little guilty pleasures, especially in Las Vegas. Even the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau promotes the destination with its What happens here, stays here tagline, which says it all.

And thats exactly where the following shows fit in. Whether theyre trendy, tacky, campy or long-running old-timers, they are all entertaining and cost under $75.

Splash

This long-running variety show at the Riviera boasts a hard-working cast. Its a high-octane romp best known for its specialty acts, including the Thunderdome motorcycle riders.

The production numbers are a little cheesy, but thats half the fun. The Michael Jackson impersonator is a real talent, and those Thunderdome daredevils racing around a 14-foot diameter metal globe are amazing.

Running continuously since 1985, Splash may qualify as the tackiest variety show in Vegas -- which also explains its appeal. Ticket prices start at $65. Call (702) 734-5110.

Penn & Teller

These two confirmed Vegas-bashers are still at it at the Rio. Six-foot-six Penn Jillettes booming voice provides a nonstop, rapid-fire and often heady commentary on everything from Vegas magicians to politics in China to the dangers of his own tricks. 

Complemented by Tellers slow-motion illusions and slightly warped sense of humor, the duos brand of in-your-face magic is a treat. This act is a 180-degree turn from standard Vegas showroom entertainment, a thinking mans show in otherwise mindless Las Vegas. Tickets are $70. For tickets, call the Rio at (888) 746-7784

Showgirls of Magic

Stationed at the Hotel San Remo, located just off the Strip, this fast-paced show with its topless showgirls has been packing em in for years with a mix of magic, comedy, music, dance and just a little bit of raunch.

Surprisingly, the illusions are of professional quality. The specialty acts are alternately amusing and gross, which the crowd seems to enjoy.

Priced at $39 (including two drinks), the shows tag line sums it up: Magic Never Looked So Good. For tickets, call (702) 597-6028.

Midnight Fantasy

If youre expecting sky-high, bejeweled headdresses and feather boas at this show, youre in the wrong fantasy. This material is far from the traditional Vegas-showgirl stereotype.

In a series of vignettes, the costumers for Midnight Fantasy show us their interpretation of sexy images: Red leather chaps and cowboy hats, rhinestone bustiers and black velvet are some of the erotic looks presented.

And its around those looks -- and eight topless dancers, led by Jennifer Young -- that the story lines of each sketch play out.

Accompanied by Stephanie Jordans vocals, the beauties teasing clients at Luxors Pharaohs theater never take themselves too seriously.

Tap dancer Lindell Blake and comedian Carole Montgomery provide entertaining interludes. Tickets are $34.95. Call (702) 262-4000.

American Superstars

As a sheer monument to excess, the Stratosphere has no equal. This tower also happens to be the home of one of Las Vegas most popular tribute shows, American Superstars. (Entertainers previously known as celebrity impersonators are now referred to as tribute artists.) And it seems that the Stratospheres tribute show is the genres nirvana.

Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and Charlie Daniels are feted here in a nonstop parade of hitmakers. Damien Brantleys Michael Jackson tribute is dead-on.

Recently rated Best Entertainment Value in All of Las Vegas by the Las Vegas Advisor, American Superstars is pure, campy fun. Tickets are $38.75. Call (702) 380-7777.

To contact the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].

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