Some traditions are meant to be untraditional: Beacher's Madhouse and Jubilee! (Photos: Facebook).
Some traditions are meant to be untraditional: Beacher's Madhouse and Jubilee! (Photos: Facebook).

The holidays are usually a time of tradition. For many, that means a trip to see the Alberta or Goh Ballet productions of The Nutcracker. For others it means a night with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at their Traditional Christmas concert. For my partner and I though, it is an opportunity to escape the Christmas rush at home, take what we think is a well-deserved break from covering the local arts scene, and exchange it for another type of rush: our annual pilgrimage to Sin City.

[pullquote]What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas: give Beacher’s Madhouse at the MGM Grand a pass and go see Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace instead.  Bally’s long-running Jubilee! is worth a discounted visit.[/pullquote]This year we decided to do something old and something new during our Vegas visit. Ignoring the over-hyped Cirque du Soleil shows that seem to be everywhere on The Strip, we opted for what we thought was going to be a cutting edge experience at the MGM Grand’s Beacher’s Madhouse and Bally’s long-running old school burlesque show Jubilee!.

While I don’t usually review shows outside Vancouver, having gone through withdrawals from not having written about a show for a couple of weeks I was more than ready to give these two shows a go. And therefore we become the exception to the rule: what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas.

MGM Grand Proudly Presents Beacher’s Madhouse

Having taken in the absolutely amazing Absinthe at Caesar’s Palace a couple of years ago (highly recommended) we were on the look-out for something new and fresh. Digging a little deeper into our options we discovered Beacher’s Madhouse, a combination of nightclub and theatrical event in the MGM Grand Hotel. Promising a wide range of bizarre and unusual acts including a hip-hop violinist, contortionists, a monkey, and even a Mini Lady Gaga, this sounded way more fun than the other circus acts down the street.

I wish I could give an actual review of the show though, for when we turned up at the MGM Grand that night we discovered they had cancelled without having bothered to let us know. A wasted evening turned into a nightmare as we tried to get our refund. We discovered that the madhouse wasn’t happening inside the theatre, it was actually happening in the lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel.

Based solely on how we were treated by both Beacher’s Madhouse and MGM Grand staff that night you’ll definitely want to give this one a pass. After all, if you can’t get the guest experience right before the show, there is little hope you’ll get it right during the show.

Go see Absinthe instead.

Bally’s Presents Donn Arden’s Jubilee!

On The Strip since 1981, Jubilee! (the exclamation point is there’s) is one of those old-school burlesque shows with beautiful men and toothy women, in what is now the longest-running show in Las Vegas.

Opting for the late night show which includes partial nudity (think nipples on the women and abs on the men), the real stars of this show are the costume and set designers.

Feeling a bit cruise-ship like, the dancing and singing were decent, but it was the eye-popping headgear and costumes on the ladies, and a re-enactment of the sinking of the Titanic that held our interest.  The bulk of the show is a mish-mash of live singing, lip-synching and very, very long legs.  There is a mid-show specialty act that changes regularly, and on the night we attended it was a duo of “poppers” who deservedly received the biggest applause of the night.

As the only surviving Vegas showgirl extravaganza after Les Folies Bergere closed at the Tropicana in 2009, this is a retro show worth taking in but go for the cheap seats or check for 2 for 1 deals before you go.

Jubilee! plays at Bally’s Las Vegas with performances Tuesday through Saturday at 7pm (family friendly) and 9:30pm (partial nudity). Visit for tickets and information.