Putting its ceiling-hugging fleet of boogie boats in dry dock, the Rio’s Show in the Sky ends 16 years of freebie fun on March 30. Launched in 1997, the 20-minute, Carnival de Brazil-flavored wingding—neon riverboats, gondolas and balloon floats, thumping music and writhing, wriggling performers in skimpy, feathery outfits tossing colored beads to onlookers from high above the casino floor—ends with no explanation from Caesars Entertainment. Yet gradual cutbacks in cast, crew and the frequency of performances seemed to presage its demise.
Personally, I will miss it for sentimental reasons, as it is the attraction that welcomed me to town in 1997, opening just before I arrived. Nothing could have done it better. Show in the Sky was kind of a gateway drug (in a good way) to the addictive entertainment scene of Las Vegas, a way to see a show without having to, ya know, see “a show.” Interactive and with all the bling of spectacular Vegas entertainment, its rep as a must-see attraction grew over the years, with three distinct shows in the hourly evening rotation.
Show in the Sky was an aerial gift that could lift your spirits. Too bad it’s been grounded. Meanwhile, Jersey Boys celebrated its fifth anniversary in town—counting its stay at the Palazzo and now Paris Las Vegas—with a performance March 21, capped by appearances by Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio of the original Four Seasons. Earlier in the day, The Seasons received a star on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars.
Jersey reps said they didn’t know if an invitation for either event was extended to group founder and Las Vegas resident Tommy DeVito, whose assistant didn’t respond to messages asking whether one was rejected or never offered.
While DeVito was not involved in the development of the original Broadway show like Valli and Gaudio, his absence from the star ceremony was glaring—not only as the founder but as the only other original surviving member (fourth “Season” Nick Massi died in 2000).
Excepting that discordant note, it was a who-loves-you-baby day for this superior jukebox musical. Striding onstage after the finale, Valli at age 78 looked fit and robust, taking a mic to thank the crowd as a cake was rolled out. Walking with a cane, 70-year-old Gaudio did likewise. (How time flies—we had just seen his younger self, played by Rob Marnell, lose his virginity about an hour earlier.)
Speaking to Vegas Seven last year, Valli summed up Jersey Boys:
“Everybody knew what we did in the music business, but very few people knew what we went through, the turmoil. We were always worried that if people found out that any member of the Four Seasons had done time, the radio would stop playing us and record companies and the public would reject us. When we got to the point where we wanted to be a play, Bob and I looked at each other and said, ‘At this point, who cares?’”
Who loves you, Jersey Boys? After five years, Vegas still does.
Who wants the Show in the Sky to return as the Topless Show in the Sky? Tell us in the comments.