Top 10 Las Vegas Shows of All Time

Las Vegas

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Las Vegas emerged as an entertainment capital beginning in the 1950s. Eventually, the strip became synonymous with elaborate shows by some of the world's top performers. These are the 10 most memorable.

01
of 10

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra

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Frank Sinatra is often given credit for helping turn Las Vegas from a desert town into a thriving, glamorous entertainment destination. He opened his first Las Vegas headlining show at the Desert Inn in 1951. Through the years Sinatra performed at such memorable venues as the Sands, Caesars Palace, and the Golden Nugget. The success of his Las Vegas shows in the 1950s combined with a resurgent film career and critically acclaimed albums helped turn Sinatra from a pop singer with a fading career into a legendary superstar.

Sinatra was not only known for his solo shows but also his performances with the "Rat Pack" including Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. The close personal and professional relationship with black performer Davis, Jr. helped lead toward greater desegregation in Las Vegas as a whole. Sinatra's final Las Vegas performance took place in 1994. When he died in 1998, the lights of the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor.

02
of 10

Wayne Newton

Wayne Newton

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Born in Norfolk Virginia in 1942, Wayne Newton first began performing on stage with his older brother, Jerry, as a child. In 1958, while he was still in high school, Newton auditioned with Jerry for a Las Vegas booking agent, who initially signed the duo for a two-week run. They ended up performing six shows a day for five years. By the 1970s, Newton became a headliner and had a top five pop hit single with "Daddy, Don't You Walk So Fast." Newton's signature song is "Danke Schoen" which hit No. 13 on the U.S, pop singles chart in 1963. He has been a regular Las Vegas performer since and earned the nickname "Mr. Las Vegas." Newton's latest show "Up Close & Personal" debuted in 2016 at Bally's Hotel.

03
of 10

Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley

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Elvis Presley first performed in Las Vegas in 1956 just as his star was ascending on the national stage. However, his youthful, raucous style was not a good fit with the sophisticated tastes of the clientele at the rising entertainment destination. In 1969, Presley returned triumphantly to Las Vegas with a sold-out show at the International Hotel. He was in the midst of a career revival with his No. 1 hit single "Suspicious Minds." Over the next seven years, Presley performed 837 sold-out shows. It was estimated that during the years Elvis was a headliner in Las Vegas, 50 percent of the city's visitors saw his show. Statues and memorabilia remain in Las Vegas to commemorate the seven years that Elvis transformed the city. 

04
of 10

Jubilee!

Jubilee!

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The massive "Jubilee!" burlesque show opened in Las Vegas in 1981. The tribute to the tradition of the Las Vegas showgirl cost $10 million to stage. It featured elaborate costumes designed by Bob Mackie and Pete Menefee and opened with a cast of over 100 showgirls and show boys. The massive feather headdresses worn weighed up to 35 pounds and included as many as 2,000 feathers on one costume. "Jubilee!" was the last of the famed Las Vegas showgirl productions, with its final curtain closing in 2016 on a stage cast of 66 performers.

05
of 10

Liberace

Liberace

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Wladziu Liberace was born in 1919 in West Allis, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee. He began playing the piano at age four and became a child prodigy. By the 1940s, Liberace was moving away from the classical music of his youth to perform a blend of pop and classical or what he called, "classical music with the boring parts left out." Liberace first performed in Las Vegas in 1944, and it was there that he began to develop his over-the-top persona, wearing jeweled rings and capes with feathers and furs. In the 1950s, Liberace became a TV star, but he never completely abandoned Las Vegas. In the 1970s, he opened the Liberace Museum in Paradise, Nevada, which was one of the area's top tourist attractions until it closed in 2010. (The Liberace Museum Collection is now housed in  at Thriller Villa, the former Las Vegas home of Michael Jackson, and displays Liberace’s automobiles and related artifacts.)

Liberace died of complications of AIDS in 1987 at age 67.

06
of 10

Lola Falana

Lola Falana

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Born in 1942 and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Lola Falana began dancing at age three and singing at age five. While dancing in a nightclub in the early 1960s, Falana was discovered by Sammy Davis, Jr. He cast her in her first film "A Man Called Adam." Their professional relationship ended in 1969, but they remained close friends. Davis, Jr. helped her launch a Las Vegas show and by the late 1970s, known as the "Queen of Las Vegas," Falana was the highest paid female performer in the city; she was offered $100,000 a week by The Aladdin. She performed on Las Vegas stages into the 1980s but later turned to focus more on her religious faith.

07
of 10

Cirque du Soleil Mystere

Cirque du Soleil Mystere

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French for "Circus of the Sun," Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1984 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada by two street performers. The organization has evolved into the largest theatrical production company in the world. "Mystere" was the first Cirque du Soleil show to take up permanent residency in Las Vegas. It opened in 1993 at the Treasure Island. Today it is one of several ongoing Las Vegas shows by the company. Like all Cirque du Soleil shows, ​"Mystere" synthesizes circus style from around the world and celebrates the physical feats of the human body. 

08
of 10

Siegfried and Roy

Siegfried and Roy

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Siegfried Fischbacher, born 1939, and Roy Horn, born 1944, both grew up in Germany. They later migrated to the United States and became naturalized citizens. In their early career, the pair performed magic on cruise ships. They were discovered in Paris by Tony Azzie and first asked to come to Las Vegas in 1967. Their best-known show began at the Mirage in 1990 and featured performances with white lions and white tigers. Siegfried and Roy were considered one of the city's top attractions. In 2003, Horn was bitten on the neck and dragged by a tiger during a performance. He was critically injured but eventually recovered. The incident put an end to the duo's regular headlining show.

09
of 10

Celine Dion

Celine Dion

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French-Canadian singer Celine Dion opened her first Las Vegas residency show "A New Day..." in 2003. A 4,000-seat venue modeled after the Roman Colosseum was constructed specifically for her show by Caesars Palace. Many observers considered the show a risky bet, but after its initial three-year contract ended, it was renewed for two more. Despite complaints, ticket prices averaged $135, and the show set an all-time record for residency shows earning over $400 million before closing in 2007.

Dion returned to Las Vegas in 2011 with a new show titled "Celine." It, too, was a phenomenal success until the residency was interrupted by the illness and death of Dion's husband Rene Angeli. Her return to the Las Vegas stage in February 2016 following his death was widely celebrated with rave reviews. She is considered the most successful individual performer in Las Vegas since Elvis Presley.

10
of 10

Penn and Teller

Penn and Teller

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Penn and Teller are a standout duo, featuring magic and comedy in their popular stage show. They were first introduced at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in 1975 and by 1985 they were performing Off-Broadway and earned an Emmy Award for their PBS show "Penn & Teller Go Public." They have been the resident headliners at the Rio since 2001. They perform in their own Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino.

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