Tournament of Kings
By Chuck Rounds
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"The Tournament of Kings," playing in the arena at the Excalibur Hotel, is an eat-with-your-fingers dining experience with a show full of kings, horses, battles, and damsels. The "kings" battle each other in a series of challenges from jousts to sword fights. There is a classic battle of good vs. evil, and good, of course, wins; and the show ends with the coronation of yet another king.
I have always had a lot of problems with the Tournament of Kings...on the one hand, the show is contrived, badly written, badly paced, lip-synced, with sampled sounds for the combat, and in general, a fairly poor example of the quality and development of entertainment in Las Vegas. On the other hand,...kids love the show, and it has really become the last bastion of decent family entertainment at a moderate price in town. Knowing what I was going to see, I took my daughter rather than a date. I sat there with what has been often been described as an "air of elitism," and she sat there and thought it was the greatest show ever. I left happy because my daughter was happy. Most parents are happy to sit through a puerile production in order to please their children, and simply put, this is a good family show. The Excalibur Hotel has always been known as the citadel for middle and lower-middle class families, and the Tournament of Kings certainly caters to these families and audience members. If you enjoy watching wrestling on television, this will be the perfect show for you. In no other show on the Strip can you hear announcements over the loud speaker that tell audience members not to bang on the table with their bowls and cups--and to please use only their hands.
Entertainment is about expectations. If you go to this production expecting art, plot, story, interesting characters, intriguing dialogue, or fine food; you will be sorely disappointed. If you go simply wanting to play, yell, mindlessly cheer, cut-loose, and have a good time; then this production could be a great bargain for you and your family.
The dinner is fairly decent. Everyone gets a whole roasted chicken, vegetables, and bread; and for a mass produced dinner, they do a pretty good job. The meal can get a bit messy--since you are tearing apart and eating everything with your fingers. This is not a place to go if you are working on impressing a date. Dress down, everyone else did, and getting grease stains out of fine fabrics can be a pain.
During the first part of the meal, the audience is instructed on the proper way to cheer, and you must join in and cheer. If you donít, you could be singled out and berated by the performers. For the most part, however, the audience did seem to really get in the spirit of the production and continued to cheer, scream and yell throughout the entire meal and show.
I was designated to cheer for the King of the Dragons. Why...? Uh, cause that is where I was seated. Things were made very simple. I am sitting here, so I cheer for the Dragon king. There was no need to worry about any pesky things such as character, character development, or the building and forming of any real alignments with these people. We are not given any reason to care about these combatants, other than the fact that we are seated in their section. Watching these "kings" lip-sync their lines doesnít help endear us to them either. It is, in fact, just another way that alienates us further from them, but given a choice---Iím glad I got to root for the bad guy.
Once we get to the contests and battles, things pick up fairly nicely. This is what we have come to see. The combatants seem to go at each other with reckless abandon. The fights can be quite exciting. The jousting is the best--watching these men on horses running at a gallop toward each other with lances. It takes a lot of skill and ability, and I applaud them for their prowess.
One of the elements that takes away from the battles, though, is the taped and amplified swings, hits and misses of the swords and all. It does not heighten the battle. It only serves to reinforce the comic book quality and style of the presentation.
The best elements of this production...
It is decent, mindless entertainment. All of the men and women are beautiful people and certainly, everyone has someone that they will enjoy watching. The horses are magnificent. They are stunning, well trained and a joy to watch. I liked the dancers. They are engaging. They have good outfits, and they do wonderful steps on the arena floor--which cannot be easy.
Toward the end of the show, a group of acrobats comes out into the arena to perform, and while they are enjoyable to watch, it is obvious that they are only there to kill time while everyone else changes costumes. It is another missed opportunity to actually advance the plot and give us any substance.
Obviously, I have a lot of problems with this show. As I said before, entertainment is about expectations. If you go to this production with the right attitude and expectations, you will have a good time. The show is great for families. All of your teenagers and preteens should just revel in this production. They are allowed and encouraged to do things that normally would be inappropriate behavior on other settings. They can scream and yell, let off some steam and be thrilled by the gallantry of the production. At a moderate price for both dinner and a show, it is a good bargain for families, and gives families an outlet in a town that is geared primarily for adults. Sit back, relax, and just have a good time.
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