Cast members of Cirque du Soleil: KÀ(Photo © Tomas Muscionico)
Cast members of Cirque du Soleil: KÀ
(Photo © Tomas Muscionico)
Las Vegas is not the most conventional theater town in the country -- their hip new diva is Celine not Sutton, their beloved stalwart is Danny Gans not Nathan Lane. But beyond the much-parodied (and, let's face it, much-loved) lounge acts and strip shows, the Vegas stages are filled with a mix of multi-million dollar theatrical extravaganzas and intimate dramatic and comic works.

But let's look at the extravagance first. The show everybody is talking about is the latest offering from Cirque du Soleil, simply titled . The fourth Cirque show to enter the fray (Mystère, O, and Zumanity all continue to wow audiences), this new kid in town has plenty of hype to live up to, but word is that this is a turning point for the Cirque creative team, who are straying somewhat from their formula of sprawling symbolic tales told through eye-popping acrobatics. The acrobatics are still there, of course, but for KA they have added martial arts moves and have chosen to tell a strong story in order to create a kind of live-action Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The other most recent big entry onto the Vegas theater scene is We Will Rock You, the musical created from songs by legendary British rock band Queen. A huge success in London's West End, where it continues to run, WWRY is now playing at the Paris. With its high energy, flashy pyrotechnics, and fantastic score of such hits as "Another One Bites the Dust," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Are the Champions," and, of course, the title song, We Will Rock You was ready-made for Vegas.

When most people think of Las Vegas entertainment, they think of Siegfried & Roy, Wayne Newton, or high tech shows like EFX Alive, but so many of the city's performances happen outside of the Vegas Strip. All over the desert city are passionate little theater troupes and individual producers who work to counteract the glitz with more thoughtful productions.

Case in point is Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT), where you'll have the chance to see three little-known plays this month. Until March 6, you can catch the funeral parlor comedy (no, really!) A Good Man by Frederick Stroppel, as well as Maria Irene Fornes's Mud, which is a part of the Insomniac Project (late performance times give night owls their theater fix). Then starting March 25 there's Trish Vradenburg's mother/daughter comic drama Surviving Grace.

Meanwhile in the middle of March, the Theatre in the Valley is presenting Ronald Ribman's Cold Storage, with performances from March 3-12. The story of an Armenian hospital patient with a secret past, Ribman's thought-provoking play poses some serious questions about life and death.

Vegas locals know also to look to their educational institutions for intriguing theatrical fare. The Performing Arts Department of the Community College of Southern Nevada, for instance, is currently presenting The Rope, a lesser-known Eugene O'Neill play which is both shorter and more light-hearted than the master's other works. And at the Las Vegas Academy, a local performing arts high school, the talented students are presenting Disney's Beauty and the Beast, a rarity for regional theater since the Broadway production is still packing in the crowds after more than 10 years. You'll need to rush to catch either of these shows, as B&B is closing on March 5, and The Rope hangs it up on the 6th.