By Jess Cagle
April 23, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Because Entertainment Weekly is a thorough chronicle of pop culture — but mostly because we’ll take any excuse to go to Vegas — we now continue with our ongoing report on the remarkable changes under way in Sin City’s showrooms. When we checked in last summer (#445), several of the old-fashioned mainstay spectacles featuring drag queens and jugglers and acrobats and Siegfried and Roy seemed to be running on empty.

Well, good riddance to them. Last month Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino installed Chicago, a full-throttle production of the fabulous Broadway revival, starring Chita Rivera as merry, roaring ’20s murderess Roxie Hart (she originated the role of Velma Kelly, alongside Gwen Verdon, in the first Broadway production of the Kander-and-Ebb musical 24 years ago). Still kicking and shockingly agile at age 66, Rivera headlines a cast of high-dollar New York talent including Stephanie Pope, Ernie Sabella, and Marcia Lewis. Ben Vereen also shows up, lest you forget that this is still Vegas, but we’ll overlook it. Buy a ticket to Chicago, and you’ll leave feeling lucky.

Down the road at the new Bellagio you can check out O, the city’s second permanent Cirque du Soleil troupe. For my money (and O can run you up to $100 a ticket), I prefer Cirque’s Mystere, still playing at Treasure Island and inspiring audiences with the phenomenal skills of its acrobats and clowns. O — also rich with talent, color, and kid-friendly humor — has added a major gimmick: The stunts are performed inside, on, and above a 1.5-million-gallon tank of water, meaning there’s lots of diving and the performances don’t have the death-defying moxie of Mystere‘s. O, of course, is still wonderful, and perhaps it’s unfair to compare, but if all were fair, this wouldn’t be Vegas.
Chicago: A-
O: A-