It can be argued (and no doubt, it has been) that Las Vegas perfected the variety show. A little song, a little dance, a little joke. Repeat as necessary.
If that doesn’t sound like the relentless charm of Vegas, we don’t know what does. Turns out, though, there are many predecessors. A little thing called Vaudeville, for one. Before that, traveling road shows and Victorian stage performers got into the act. But if Las Vegas didn’t dream up the variety show, it surely perfected it.
Here, it was second nature to cater to the revolving door of visitors and their ever-changing tastes, not to mention their ever-shortening attention spans. Las Vegas entertainers picked up on that quickly.
Many Strip stalwarts honed their skills on the Vaudeville circuits of the early 20th century. They took their singing, dancing and comedy talents, learned night after night, town after town on the Vaudeville circuit and brought them to the Strip. Dean Martin, for one, always included comedy in his act. Bob Hope could always dance a lick. And younger performers, from Tony Orlando to Wayne Newton to Sonny & Cher to Donny & Marie, learned on their feet, incorporating the energy of variety shows into their acts. And eventually, even to their TV shows.
Today, you can still turn on the TV and catch versions of the classic variety show. (America’s Got Talent and the rest still pull big ratings.) But the heart, soul and old soft-shoe of variety shows is, and always will be, in Las Vegas.
Up and down the Strip, there’s magic, music, sketch comedy and dancing. And all we can say is, Viva Las Variety.