Matsuri: How not getting hit in the nose with a yo-yo ensured a good review
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Me with two Matsuri performers

Two weeks ago I traveled to Las Vegas for Ticket Summit®. I decided to arrive early in order to see the sights and catch a show. When I went to decide on a show a few weeks ago, I knew I didn't want to pay a lot of money. I also knew I wanted to see something good, and something off the beaten path created by shows like Cirque. At first it seemed like an impossible combination, if only because of the huge number of shows to choose from.

Enter Matsuri. I was initially attracted by its name and its description, but the reviews seemed pretty good, too. Still, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I decided to go, anyway.

Margaritaville in Las Vegas

I arrived in Vegas on Sunday evening and went to get my ticket. Good thing, too, as Imperial's entrance is kind of hidden, even though the hotel is on the Strip. After getting my ticket, I headed over to Margaritaville for a meal, and then headed to bed.

On Monday afternoon, I arrived at the theater, only to find that my seat was stage side. Oh boy! were my first thoughts. Was I going to kill my neck craning it to see all the acrobatics? Was I going to need a masseuse afterward?

It turns out that stage side was an excellent position, and the show was fantastic as well. I think I'd best describe Matsuri as a Japanese acrobatic variety show. I say “variety show” because it's more than just acrobatics. It has comedy, audience interaction, dancing, and more. Comedy wasn't something I expected in an acrobatics show, but when the female protagonist (as I call her) tried to spin a ridiculously-sized hula hoop, I laughed along with everybody else.

Of course, the acrobatics themselves were nothing short of amazing. It was a mix of the traditional--handstands, pyramids, flipping, and vaulting--and the new--swinging a yo-yo, jump roping, and even double-dutch (sometimes while hula hooping). One of my favorite stunts involved a couple of the performers crouching down while another leap-frogged over them.

There even seems to be an underlying plot, of a young man and woman trying to get a scroll to the Empress, while making their way through bands of acrobats. However, I wasn't entirely sure what to make of the story. That's okay, because the show as a whole more than made up for my inability to understand the plot.

The setting of Matsuri may not be in the large auditoriums of the Cirques, but it does just as well at Imperial Palace. It was once at the late Sahara, where I understand it had a bigger stage and cast, but it maintains its magic even with the smaller venue and cast. The only thing I didn't like about my stage side seat was a stage light that occasionally blinded me. I also feel that sitting farther away would have allowed me to see all the action at once for the full-cast numbers.

That said, being farther away would have its disadvantages, too, as it's much less intimate. Those sitting farther away could not experience the male protagonist's true skill with his yo-yo which, at one point, stopped just short of hitting my nose (oddly, this is when I started really getting into the show). It was also much easier to watch some of the skits with fewer participants and understand what they were doing. So being closer actually led to a better overall experience for me (and I rarely had to crane my neck).

Ultimately, I found Matsuri to be an excellent 90-minute acrobatics show that offered more than that at a fraction of the price of the big shows. I'd recommend it for just about anybody, and not just as a cheaper alternative to Cirque, because the show really does stand on its own.

Unfortunately, it closed last Wednesday, and the crew is headed back to Japan. I asked both the box office and one of the performers if they'd be back, but neither was sure. I'd keep a look out for it, though, as it deserves to be seen!

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