If you want to see a kooky, fun variety show, with a clearly demarcated beginning, middle and end, go see Absinthe at Caesars Palace. From a straight performance perspective, it’s still Spiegelworld’s best. But if you want to enter the world of Absinthe, to fall down the rabbit hole into another dimension and wander around its many rooms, then Absinthe’s younger sister, Vegas Nocturne at Rose.Rabbit.Lie. in the Cosmopolitan, is for you.
The logo for this “grand social experiment” is an old-fashioned skeleton key with a twisted shaft. What this key could represent: peeping through a keyhole to view delicious naughties; eventual entry into that haven of delicious naughties; the steampunk-flapper-Follies girl aesthetic that’s all the rage among hip bars; a confusing, mysterious world of surprising and unexpected delights.
True to its advertising, this combination supper club/speakeasy/variety show/nightclub is all of the above.
Fair warning: My experience will not be indicative of your own. My itinerary included 8:15 p.m. dinner reservations followed by the 10 p.m. and midnight cantos of Vegas Nocturne, a wacky, sexy variety show. There is also an 8 p.m. canto, which I missed. Each is different and can be experienced à la carte.
While I dined under the piercingly ethereal sounds of a costumed glass armonica player, my friends—on itineraries of their own—flitted past my table en route to this room or that, pausing only long enough to tell fabulous stories of the things they’d seen. One friend had stumbled upon a room where she watched a jumpsuited man in a bathtub play with his balls … or that’s how she told the story. The balls were, of course, glass—the kind that David Bowie manipulates in Labyrinth. Another friend had chanced upon a croissant auction. When he won, he ate the pastry while a gaggle of performers invited his girlfriend into a curtained closet where they gave her a lap dance. Another friend happened to chat up Vegas Nocturne’s host, Alfonso, who later remembered my friend and called him onstage, by name.
These types of experiences seem designed to pass immediately through hearsay and directly into legend. They will be repeated by tourists when they go home, growing and twisting in the retelling like that skeleton key. But tourists may have a hard time expanding upon an already expansive reality.
I sampled no secret rooms, which leaves me yearning to go back and try my luck at another round. Instead, I ate dinner politely and played peekaboo with the performances in the neighboring room. They were partially visible through semi-transparent screens that sometimes receded to reveal more, like an old-timey stripper who knows that concealing can be more compelling than revealing. I ogled the shadow of a burlesque singer on the other side, which stretched across the screens, creating a clear yet wholly distorted view, like panels on a ’50s-era comic book.
After dinner came an intoxicating experience with bottled cocktails, followed by Vegas Nocturne. There’s little concealing there. The variety act is most definitely R-rated, and it has the same hipstery disco-shabby aesthetic known to fans of Absinthe.
Vegas Nocturne, with its eclectic talent—beatboxers, tap dancers, Chinese jugglers, post-modern dragon clowns and zany hosts—could maybe use a little more time to coalesce, but it’s already fun. Hell, the midnight canto seduced me into staying on and dancing into the night after the show morphed into a club led by a dreadlocked DJ. That’s because at Rose.Rabbit.Lie., atmosphere is king (or if you’re not into monarchies, it’s the funky millionaire of mysterious means and comic backstory à la the show’s host, Alfonso). Vegas Nocturne is one element that builds into the experience of Rose.Rabbit.Lie., not the other way around. And it works. Put this one on your key chain.