A taste of Las Vegas in Eilat

Elvis Presley. Marilyn Monroe. Frank Sinatra. There aren’t many places you can see any of these larger-than-life personalities on stage these days, but at the WOW Vegas Show that is currently running in Eilat, they all come to life – in holographic form, that is.

For close to 90 minutes at a 1,000-seat theater inside the Isrotel Royal Garden, showgirls, acrobats, tap dancers, roller skaters, gymnasts, a ventriloquist, a magician and one Michael Jackson impersonator entertain the crowd in a fast-paced, colorful show.

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The WOW show – like it has been for the past 15 years – is the brainchild of Israeli actor, performer and mime Hanoch Rosenn.

“We put on a show that is very quick and diverse and colorful and that every minute something else is happening,” said Rosenn in a meeting with local journalists earlier this month. “We’ve created a show that is very Israeli – it’s Israeli in its pace. This audience is not prepared for a long, drawn-out show.”

This year’s theme came about in a roundabout way. Rosenn’s original inspiration for the first WOW show was Vegas-style glitz and entertainment.

“Over the years we’ve managed to develop something that’s uniquely Israeli, and now we have sold it back to Vegas,” said Rosenn. Indeed, one of the shows the director developed several years ago, the WOW water show, is now playing at the Rio Showroom in Vegas eight times a week. The performance, which opened in Las Vegas in September, contains “80% of the original artists” who were in the Israeli version of the show, Rosenn said.

And while the Israeli director was spending time in Vegas getting that production off the ground, he dreamed up the idea for the latest WOW show, which opened just a few weeks ago in Eilat.

The latest show – unlike many of the WOW productions over the years – has a relatively straightforward and cohesive plot. The lead character is a down-on-his-luck young guy in New York. After getting fired and dumped in the same day, he magically receives a free one-way ticket to Las Vegas and sets off for Sin City. His bright-eyed wonder is expressed in dance and movement and facial expressions – but not in words – likely because the actor is a native Russian-speaker with little-to-no English.

One of the standouts in the show is the ventriloquist, who goes by the stage name Romeo Le Formidable. Despite being in Israel just over a month, he commands an impressive level of Hebrew put to use in his act. And Rosenn has managed to slip in jokes about Netta Barzilai and Static and Ben-El which will keep the locals chuckling.

Rosenn said around 20% of the show’s audience is tourists, and the rest are Israelis; therefore the show is mostly non-verbal. The majority of the spoken language is English, with some Hebrew thrown in, mostly by Romeo – that is, by his puppets.

Rosenn said it can be difficult to craft a show that appeals to many ages, and people from many backgrounds, locals and tourists alike.

“You can be sexy but not too sexy, edgy but not too edgy, funny but not offensive,” he said.

As a result, the show is bright, funny, silly and plenty of fun. The women tend to be scantily clad, but not more so than on most beaches. The moment when gun-wielding mafia members storm the stage doesn’t make much sense in the plot, but only the youngest audience members will be scared. The show is for age four and up, but it is likely to be a bit confusing and overwhelming for anyone that age; I’d recommend only bringing those over seven or eight.

And while the show is fairly family-friendly, the cast is also filled to the brim with couples and babies. Romeo Le Formidable – a stage name, of course – is married to an aerial acrobat also in the show, Shulga Olesia from Ukraine; the couple have three young children with them in Eilat. The lead female star is married to a dancer in the show, and their adorable nine-month-old baby is a backstage fixture. The roller-skater dancers who feature in the show – Den and Mari – are themselves a married couple.

Like every year, the cast is made up of international performers from all corners of the globe.

Marcel Peneux, a tap dancer and native of Suriname in South America, who now lives in the Netherlands, is getting used to his time in Israel.

“It’s my first time here,” said the award-winning performer. “It’s a nice challenge, I’ve never been here, there’s a different mentality” to the other places he has performed.

And Romeo Le Formidable said he is looking forward to “learning even more Hebrew” during his time here.

But almost all of the performers had one word to describe their experiences so far in Eilat: “Hot!”

The WOW Vegas Show runs every day at 8:30 p.m., except for Sunday nights. Tickets are NIS 130 each, or NIS 95 for Isrotel guests and NIS 115 for senior citizens and Eilat residents.

The writer was a guest of the Isrotel hotel chain.