The Best Cirque du Soleil Show to See Based on Your Vibe
Are you feeling psychedelic, sci-fi, grandiose, or like a native New Yorker? There’s a Cirque du Soleil show to fit every mood.
From all-star residencies to immersive art, there are no shortage of entertainment options in Sin City. And if you’re looking for a show that combines theater, acrobatics, dance, music, and amazing stage and costume design then Cirque du Soleil is your best bet. But there are a lot of Cirque shows in Las Vegas, and you can only see so many in one weekend. Every Cirque show has its own unique vibe, and knowing ahead of time what exactly that vibe is will help you decide which show is right for you. So here you have it: the six resident Cirque shows in Las Vegas and what you can expect from each one.
And if you’re looking to score cheap tickets in Vegas, browse our guide for tips.
Kà is the only Cirque show in Vegas with a cohesive narrative, which certainly sets it apart from the other productions that are tied together by a loose theme but aren’t really telling a story. Here, the story is about two Imperial twins, a brother and sister, who are separated during an attack on the Royal Court and must forge their own paths of self-discovery before reuniting to defeat the attackers. It’s a coming-of-age story, a love story, and a hero’s journey story, but what you, the eager audience member, really need to know about this show is that it is basically a sumptuous martial arts epic come to life, and it is truly breathtaking.
Kà features all the same kind of jaw-dropping acrobatics and aerial feats you expect from a Las Vegas Cirque show with some (extremely dangerous) showstoppers you won’t see anywhere else. For example, the famous “Wheel of Death”—a human-sized hamster wheel that features a performer running, jumping rope, leaping, somersaulting, and doing other objectively dangerous things while the wheel spins on a rotating arm—is a double wheel in the front with a triple wheel behind it with two performers doing death-defying tricks on them simultaneously.
This technical production was the most expensive theatrical production in history when it first opened in 2005. It blends choreography and theatrical elements from all over the world, including kung fu, Brazilian Capoeira, and Chinese opera. Costumes include hand-painted silks and there’s also a fireworks-shooting Catherine Wheel. If you only see one Cirque show in your life, make it Kà.
Kà plays Saturdays through Wednesdays at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm at the MGM Grand (dark Thursdays and Fridays). Tickets start at $69.
“O” is gorgeous. From the minute you walk into the theater—hell, the minute you walk into the lobby of the theater, which doubles as a gallery for the bronze sculptures of Richard MacDonald depicting the taut bodies of dancers and acrobats in motion (that cost tens of thousands of dollars)—you just know that it is going to be a stunningly beautiful show.
The theater itself, with a soaring, 12-story rounded ceiling illuminated in shades of blue meant to evoke stained glass, is adorned in rich jewel tones draped in gold, with the intention of recalling opulent European opera houses.
There is not a single detail of “O” that isn’t the result of mechanical wizardry. Every single production requires hundreds of people in order to run, with almost twice as many stage technicians (150) as performers (85). The engineers even had to create a microclimate inside of the theater, the first of its kind in North America, to address the challenges presented by having a 1.5-million-gallon pool in a sealed, air-conditioned enclosure.
There’s also a ten-piece orchestra enclosed behind glass. Cirque is known for incorporating world music into its productions, and in “O,” the music is especially dramatic and grand. The result is an awe-inspiring production that could only ever be at the iconic Bellagio.
From simple street performances to extravagant operas, “O” pays homage to the magic of the theater. Set in a watery world, performers include high divers and synchronized swimmers as well as trapeze artists, aerialists, fire dancers, contortionists, and clowns. There is a reason that “O” is an enduring favorite that people return to see again and again. It is, quite simply, breathtaking.
“O” plays Wednesdays through Sundays at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm at the Bellagio. Tickets start at $79.
The newest show in Cirque’s Las Vegas lineup, Mad Apple—which appropriately plays at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino—is a love letter to all things New York. It’s also in a category of its own as far as Cirque shows go. While the Cirque brand may be mostly associated with colorful costumes and whimsical productions, Mad Apple is its own kind of “colorful” (translation: swearing and extremely adult humor).
Replacing Cirque’s only other adults-only show in its history (the very sexy Zumanity, RIP), Mad Apple dials back the sexiness (though not all the way!) while ramping up other adult content, mostly by way of a very, VERY un-PC MC who swears a lot and is definitely going to rankle some red hats at some point during his run with this show. As an added bonus, the comedian is also an illusionist, a skill that will probably come in handy when he inevitably crowd-works the wrong person and has to disappear himself from the stage. There’s also juggling, sword-swallowing, Harlem Globetrotters-style acrobatic basketball tricks and leaping through hoops, a wheel of death (just one; this isn’t Kà), and partner acts reminiscent of Zumanity.
Mad Apple is very much a music-driven production, and that’s really where the Big Apple inspiration is most obvious. With five stellar vocalists backed by an excellent five-piece band, Mad Apple feels more like a concert than any other Cirque show. Expect to hear variations of NY-centric songs like “New York State of Mind,” “Empire State of Mind,” “On Broadway;” and New York artists like Run-DMC and Lady Gaga, plus Studio 54 disco. The performance of “Summertime” (made famous on Broadway in the 1930s) is an absolute stunner.
Cirque tends to make big investments in the buildouts of their theaters so that the theater itself is part of the experience. There’s a 31-foot-long State of Liberty crown lit with color-changing LED lights suspended over the stage and an apple-shaped disco ball, for starters. And be sure to get there early—there are three moveable bars located on the stage itself where you can grab a drink and a selfie before the show.
Mad Apple plays Fridays through Tuesdays at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino (dark Wednesdays and Thursdays). Tickets start at $59.
Mystère is classic Cirque, the one that put the Montreal circus of the sun on the Las Vegas resort map. It is a world of pure imagination; the purest form of Cirque from before it was a hugely successful global brand (keep in mind, this show opened in 1993 and completely redefined Vegas entertainment—and, by extension, mainstream theatrical entertainment—as it was once known).
There are aerialists and acrobats, balancing acts and stilt walkers, gymnasts and trapeze artists, an elaborate Chinese pole act, puppetry, and Japanese taiko drumming. There are also gorgeously plumed characters, elegant flowy costumes, nightmarish giants, and beautifully wicked “birds of prey” that soar through the air as smoothly and gracefully as actual birds in flight. The duo straps act is a particular standout, featuring a male and female performer soaring and spinning and twirling and intertwining through the air.
Every Cirque show is fundamentally about the acrobatics and the physicality of the performers, but in Mystère that physicality is the core focus. It is joyful and colorful and, above all else, truly remarkable in its display of athleticism. This is the real deal, the Platonic ideal, the Godfather, the OG, the Criterion Collection of Cirque shows. It is arguably the one that got this kooky Quebecois circus company started on its path of world entertainment domination.
Mystère plays Fridays through Tuesdays at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm at Treasure Island (dark Wednesdays and Thursdays). Tickets start at $69.
Staged in the second half of the Beatles’ brief, decade-long career, The Beatles LOVE is all about 1960s counterculture, psychedelics, free love, and equality. The show is a little bit political (in that it acknowledges the politics and social milieu of the era), and the production goes on a journey through 20th century British history, the Beatles’ own history, and the messages behind their music.
The Beatles LOVE is, at its very core, a show about love. It is full of joy, but also some sorrow (many of the Beatles’ most popular songs, like “Yesterday” and “Hey Jude,” are tinged with sadness). 120 Beatles songs were used to create the award-winning soundtrack for this show, and as bright and colorful and fun as the production often is, it’s also an emotional rollercoaster, moving from some of the Beatles’ bigger social messages to more intimate moments of grief (like the loss of John Lennon’s mother Julia). But even in its more sorrowful and reflective moments, the show never loses its sense of hope. You could even say, they take a sad song and make it better.
And they do all of this with vibrant costumes, set pieces, and digital projections, as well as the kind of circus-style performances integral to any Cirque show: high-flying wire acts, acrobatic aerialists, inline skaters performing tricks on 11-foot-high skate ramps, trapeze acts, and lots of choreography. The staging of The Beatles LOVE is unique to this production, using a theater-in-the-round where the audience is seated 360 degrees around the entire stage (because of this, there is truly not a bad seat in the house). It is also a multi-sensory experience, with scents piped in through the ventilation for certain songs. And since this is a show about the best-selling and most popular music group of all time, they don’t mess around with the sound: each seat has three speakers built in for fully immersive sound.
And all message and meaning and emotion aside, if you ever wanted to take shrooms and go see a Cirque show full of bright colors and trippy lights, this is the one to do that with.
The Beatles LOVE plays Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm at the Mirage (dark Sundays and Mondays). Tickets start at $69.
Let’s address the “Black or White” Elephant in the room: this show is about Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson is a…complicated…figure. He’s also one of the highest-selling recording artists of all time. Thriller is still, to this day, the best-selling album of all time. By the early ‘90s, when Michael Jackson would release a new music video, it was a primetime television event simultaneously broadcast in dozens of countries. He was a man who had only ever known suffocating levels of fame, and who spent much of his existence on this planet as tabloid fodder. His unlikely friendships and unlikelier relationships received the kind of wall-to-wall news coverage the Kardashians could only dream of. And all of that is addressed during ONE.
The story of Michael Jackson ONE follows four fans that discover four enchanted objects: Jackson’s famous moonwalking shoes, signature black aviator sunglasses, black fedora, and white crystal-encrusted glove. Their adventure takes the audience on a journey through Jackson’s full music catalog, interspersing iconic choreography from his music videos with Cirque acrobatics. The “story” of these fans is a little muddled and hard to follow, but it’s not really important.
The costumes and choreography are outstanding—there’s a woman dressed all in gold rocking out on a guitar that shoots fireworks! This is the most heavily choreographed of the Cirque shows and ultimately feels like a 90-minute-long music video montage of the King of Pop’s most beloved hits. It is a deeply nostalgic show for anyone who grew up during a time when he was topping the charts. The target audience for this is definitely the youngest Boomers, the eldest Millennials, and Gen X as a whole.
Pro tip: There is a slow interlude that immediately follows the exquisite “Dirty Diana” performance, and this seems like it would be a good time to use the restroom. It is not. “Billie Jean” immediately follows this brief interlude, and there are many who say that this is the best part of the show. Take it from the experience of a writer who went to the restroom right after “Dirty Diana” and heard all of the staff talking about how everyone uses the restroom right after “Dirty Diana” and misses the best part of the show.
Michael Jackson ONE plays Thursdays through Mondays at 7 pm and 9:30 pm at Mandalay Bay (dark Tuesdays and Wednesdays). Tickets start at $69.