Kabuki takes Las Vegas by storm

Just when we thought we couldn’t love the Fountains of Bellagio any more than we already do, they go and produce something so over-the-top we can’t help but want their name tattooed on our hindquarters. Oh wait – this is not that kind of article.


The ancient Japanese art of Kabuki premiered last night on a partially submerged stage in the middle of the Bellagio’s 8.5-acre lake. This never-before-seen play, starring Japanese megastars Ichikawa Somegoro and Nakamura Yonekichi, was a first of its kind for not only Las Vegas, but for Kabuki lovers everywhere.

The stage has been built in front of the fountains so images can be digitally projected onto a fountain-made water screen during each scene. Yes, you read that correctly: The dancing streams of water serve as a giant projector screen. We didn’t know that was possible either but go big or go home, right? A total of 1,214 fountains span more than 1,000 feet long and shoot 460 feet into the air. It’s the first time an ancient Kabuki play has ever integrated such high tech equipment into a performance. Welcome to Vegas, baby.

When the performance begins, the main characters enter on boats from opposite ends of the lake. Their dialogue starts before they reach each other or the stage (and you thought walking and texting was hard). Marked by traditional Japanese music and vibrant costumes, it’s an age-old tale of love and loss.

Executed with both intensity and grace, the story is told through facial expressions and voice inflections, most of which will not be seen by folks with crappy views but will still be heard. And unless you speak Japanese, you will come to understand the rage and sorrow felt by the characters through their body language, music and the digital set around them.


Photo by Ashley Oñoz-Wright/Vegas.com.

The fountains serve as Oscar-worthy supporting actors, charging high into the sky during climactic scenes and changing colors to invoke the right emotions from the crowd. You’ll also see the fountains transform into scenic landscapes and a giant carp. Musicians in Japan recorded the soundtrack specifically for this occasion, which happens to be the 120th anniversary of the show’s production company, Shochiku.

As the entertainment capital of the world, we’re used to big productions with multiple elements like lights, water, and fog – but it adds a completely different dimension when the venue is outside and open to the public. This is impressive…even for us.


Photo by Ashley Oñoz-Wright/Vegas.com.

Without spoiling the plotline, the pinnacle of the play is a fight scene triggered by deceit and the need for revenge between the two lovers. And though it pains us to say the most overly used word of all time, it’s pretty freaking epic. If the Japanese symbolism goes over your head, sit back and appreciate it for what it is: the largest-scale production ever seen at the Fountains of Bellagio.

So here’s what you need to know: We’ve got heat advisories out all weekend so if you’re going to make the trek, don’t do it without the right clothing and even more water than you think you’ll need. The only four remaining shows are Saturday and Sunday night starting at 9:15 p.m. & 11:30 p.m. This is a first for Vegas so we suggest you get there early to get a good spot, like way earlier than you think you should (some folks arrived 2-3 hours early to get prime spots).

Your viewpoint probably won’t be as stellar as you’d hope as a VIP grandstand blocks the center view of the stage, but it’s OK. Even if you can’t see the stage, you’ll still be able to see the fountains and the rich, colorful images projected onto them. So relax and soak up the fact that you’re witnessing theatrical and cultural history being made…and you didn’t have to pay for it.


Photo by Ashley Oñoz-Wright/Vegas.com.

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Born a Buckeye - raised a Hoosier. I grew up in a one-horse town that straddles the Indiana/Ohio state line and until 2006, was in two different time zones. There were three stoplights and a whopping 48 students in my graduating class. Fast forward a few years later, I was bitten by the travel bug and decided to head west. It seems like no matter how long I live here, there’s always something that still makes my jaw drop. That’s what I love about Vegas; you never know what you’re going to see next and that’s what makes living here so much fun. Basically, if you’re bored in this town, there’s something wrong with you…not the city. I’m an avid traveler with an incurable case of wanderlust so stay tuned for all the tours, attractions and shopping adventures that Sin City has to offer.