Ranking the Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil Residency Shows

Featured image credit: Hermann Luyken

Cirque du Soleil has become such a fixture of the Las Vegas experience that it’s hard to recall that the first permanent venture was a major risk. Up until then, the expectations of Las Vegas nightlife were drastically different. While most will agree that Siegfried and Roy did the heavy lifting of the Vegas entertainment revolution, Cirque du Soleil provided more than its fair share of clown soldiers. Today, revelers can choose between six Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil residencies. But that’s soon to be five. Here’s how they stack up…

Mad Apple

Location: New York-New York Hotel and Casino

Active Since: 2022

newest Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil attraction Mad Apple
Photo credit: Cirque du Soleil

Mad Apple is the freshest of Vegas’s Cirque du Soleil residencies. And with that novelty comes a purposeful refusal of Cirque du Soleil traditions. Pancake-faced acrobats are replaced by jersey-wearing basketball players. World music is drowned out by contemporary pop hits. Wild-eyed French-Canadian impresarios are forgotten in favor of besuited stand-up comedians. Ones who drop expletives in heavy Bronx accents. It’s Cirque du Soleil’s celebration of the city that never sleeps. But Mad Apple, at times, feels like it’s so enamored with New York that it forgets to be Cirque du Soleil.

At the same time, Cirque productions have never rested on their laurels. And for the traditionalists, two of the Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil shows still in production have been going strong since the 1990s. Mad Apple still dazzles with awe-inspiring feats of Olympian wonder shining through layers of immaculate stage dressing. But if you do only one Cirque du Soleil experience in Sin City, make it anything else. 

Michael Jackson: One

Location: Mandalay Bay

Active Since: 2013

Michael Jackson One combines a Las Vegas Cirque Du Soleil residency with King of Pop's songs
Photo credit: Cirque du Soleil

Michael Jackson: One blends elements of classic Cirque shows with hits courtesy of the late King of Pop. It’s another indicator of the modern Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas visitors can expect from the more recent residencies. But the reason Michael Jackson: One isn’t higher on the list is because it will mostly appeal to those falling into one of three categories:

  • Those who feel like the classic Cirque tropes are wearing thin.
  • Those who never held much affinity for the classic Cirque tropes to begin with.
  • Bigger fans of Michael Jackson than Cirque du Soleil. 

That’s not to say diehard Cirque fans won’t find something to love in this irreverent tackling of the Cirque formula. A group of social outcasts seek solace in the music of MJ. After adopting iconic pieces of his wardrobe as talismans, they explore a world heavily influenced by Jackson’s oeuvre. A bit more dance-oriented than the other Cirque du Soleil residencies, Michael Jackson: One is still a lot of fun. It just doesn’t feel as much like the Cirque du Soleil experience as other Vegas offerings. 


Location: Treasure Island

Active Since: 1993

Mystere marks the first Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil permanent show
Photo credit: Cirque du Soleil

You have to give it up for the original. In fact, the only reason that Mystére isn’t higher on our list of Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas residencies is because its predecessors built upon what it did so well. Consider Mystére the base model for all that would follow. It glided so others could soar. Mystére may not be the first Cirque du Soleil show ever, but it’s the oldest Cirque residency still going. With its first show in 1993, it’s pretty much Cirque history in motion. 

Interestingly, Mystére was originally planned for Caesar’s Palace. Keep in mind, no one knew how a permanent Cirque du Soleil show would go over with Vegas crowds in those days. Ultimately, it landed at Treasure Island where it’s been dazzling steady crowds ever since. Mystére is perhaps best recognized for its ever-growing snail puppet. It might not pack the state-of-the-art influence it once did. But you have to give Mystére respect. This is where it all started! 

The Beatles: Love

Location: The Mirage

Active Since: 2006

Photo credit: Cirque du Soleil

By the time you’re reading this, it’s likely too late for you to enjoy this Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil fan favorite. That’s because The Beatles: Love will hold its final performance on July 7 following Hard Rock’s purchase of The Mirage. The Beatles: Love mixes Cirque flavor with an exterior artist influence much like Michael Jackson: One. So, why is this one higher on our list? The psychedelia so closely associated with The Beatles just fits the traditional Cirque du Soleil spirit more seamlessly. The visuals of characters plucked from Beatles tunes don’t exactly feel at home in Cirque du Soleil, but they’re more comfortable. Plus, The Beatles themselves are alluded to more as an essence than as individuals; a luxury that Michael Jackson: One couldn’t afford.

Cirque du Soleil employed famed Beatles producer George Martin and his son, Giles Martin, as music directors. Together, they assembled the sonic quiltwork that soundtracks the kaleidoscopic performance, using 120 Beatles tunes for the dazzling end result. You don’t need to be a Beatles fan to connect with this boundary-breaking offering from the Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil residencies. But, if we’re being honest, it helps. 

Location: MGM Grand

Active Since: 2004

Photo credit: Cirque du Soleil

If “all is fair in love and war”, then Kà may be the fairest of all the Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil residencies. It’s definitely the most coherent as far as storylines go. But it still approaches that clarity with Cirque du Soleil’s thoughtful exploration of themes: this time, the twin flames of love and war. One of the most impressive aspects of Kà is its stage, situated within the massive MGM Grand. It measures approximately 15 stories from the floor of its pit to the top of its ceiling. And you can believe that Cirque’s accomplished acrobats use every inch of it. 

But not all of Kà’s hits are on the visual level. This is a sonically impressive performance, thanks to in-seat speakers with targeted audio manipulation capabilities. This means that audio engineers can tailor the experience to your seating area in real time. And if you want to know how the minds at Cirque du Soleil use that to the audience’s benefit? Well, we don’t want to spoil anything. Just make it a point to experience it for yourself. Kà’s been at the MGM Grand since 2004 and hopefully isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 


Location: The Bellagio

Active Since: 1998

Photo credit: Cirque du Soleil

How do you get the greatest Las Vegas Cirque du Soleil residency of all time? Just add water. Still possibly the most ambitious of Cirque’s shows, O literally plunges a talented troupe, including several former Olympians, into a 1.5 million-gallon pool. It varies depth throughout each performance using engineering that is impressive in itself. A full scuba team keeps props and set pieces moving while providing air to performers submerged in the water. Each seamless sequence feels like a miracle, providing the breathless thrill of a classic Cirque performance. 

Don’t worry, there are still plenty of aerial acrobatics. Pyro acts are even involved. But water continues to be the main star of the show. O is a simplification of the French word “eau”, meaning “water.” So, no false advertising there. Over a quarter of a century later, O remains innovative, magical, and inspirational. And those are exactly the feelings you want walking out of a Cirque du Soleil performance. 

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