Three years ago, I went to see “Absinthe,” an astounding-acrobats-and-others show that takes place in a tent in front of Caesars Palace, with the crowd close to the action, and a very good reason for not allowing kids inside (here’s my review). While in Vegas again last week, I went to see a new show from the same creative team, “Opium,” at The Cosmopolitan.
I’ll cut to the chase: as much as I still recommend the original show, I can’t say the same for the new one.
Like “Absinthe,” “Opium” has several performers who do remarkable things. I’ll get to them in a moment. The problem is that they are surrounded by a ridiculous plot line that puts us aboard a spaceship headed for Uranus. Yes, Uranus, as in the punchline to jokes about butts that stopped being funny in eighth grade. That’s the level of humor involved.
I knew I was in trouble when the first character to enter was a sex robot named Rob who began to engage with female audience members in the front row. He was stopped by another character named Lt. Harriet, who then conducted a monologue involving all sorts of sexual content. To make matters worse, at various times during the show, other characters simulated various sexual acts, accompanied by unnecessarily raunchy remarks. I don’t disapprove of material in that realm — except when it’s not funny, which this wasn’t.
I wasn’t offended. I was unamused. The bits were cheap and targeted to a lowest common denominator audience (exactly the opposite of “Absinthe,” which has some real wit). Despite one of the women constantly dropping her top to expose her breasts, the show is about as sexy as Jane Fonda’s 1968 mistake-in-space, “Barbarella.”
I was also annoyed that these skits were taking up more time than the featured performers, who included: Yuri, who did one-handed hand-stands while his tiny dog Sputnik ran up and around his body; LeeLoo, who swirled an enormous balloon around her body until she was actually inside of it; sword swallower Todd Vader; and two tap-dancing women who were good, but not as good as Sean and John, the twins who do a similar act in “Absinthe.” In fact, none of the acts had any kind of “wow!” factor, including a woman who does a few cover songs from the 1980s (David Bowie’s “Life On Mars,” Elton John’s “Rocket Man”) as the house band plays behind her — more valuable stage time wasted.
The best part of the evening was the simplicity of the performance by Bubble Man (whose name I didn’t catch and can’t find anywhere online), who does a much more sedate spot at center stage, creating magic with soap bubbles. Rather than trying to describe his act further, let me show you…
My advice: skip “Opium” entirely. If you’re looking for something to do while in Vegas, go see “Absinthe” or Cirque du Soleil’s “O” or Penn & Teller or Mac King or Jen Kramer or pretty much anything else on The Strip (even the Tournament Of Kings at Excalibur is more entertaining!).