'Tournament of Kings' at Excalibur offers a family-friendly medieval-themed Vegas diversion
by Cassiopeia Guthrie, Nov. 21, 2022
Horseback stunts, magic, pyrotechnics, and a spirit of adventure set the stage - or arena, in this case - for Excalibur Hotel's Tournament of Kings. This long-running Las Vegas dinner theatre production, which encourages audience participation, is a loose adaptation of King Arthur's tale.
The storyline follows a series of sovereigns as they arrive at King Arthur's round table (each one represents a real country from France to Spain to Romania). Over the course of the evening, they participate in a jousting tournament to bring honor to King Arthur, defend his realm against the evil "Dragon Kingdom," and ultimately support his son's ascension to the throne just before bows begin. Filled with stuntwork, fire throwers, and a robust light plot, the show features a large ensemble of performers: dancers, warriors, knights, jester, emcee, prince, and king.
The venue is surprisingly large and spacious. Presented in the round below the casino level of the hotel in an oblong earthen arena upon which the majority of the action takes place, there are 900 seats placed in country-aligned sections of the theatre, each featuring the colors of their champions. Attendees are trained in a few callbacks and encouraged to raise a tankard to cheer on their heroes throughout the production. In the meantime, servers deliver a meal of Cornish game hen, corn, roasted potatoes, and a dinner roll, as well as an apple strudel/pastry to round it out. A variety of nonalcoholic beverages are included, though alcoholic options are available to for purchase as well.
It is easy to see that the theatricality of this show would make it a favorite for families with children. Horses and swords are quite exciting and the dancers even integrate themselves into the house to keep time with tambourines. There are smoke and firework effects and the staged combat featuring great swords and military flails (though there seems to be some controversy over whether or not these were actually used in battle, in case you're interested in a medieval deep dive!) is well choreographed and intense. The horses are clearly well trained and desensitized to the unique demands of this production and appear healthy. On a side note, I did appreciate that our king, the King of Austria, was bonded to his horse and rewarded him handsomely and encouraged applause for him as well following the curtain call. Furthermore, the affordable price point and the novelty of eating with one's hands make the production a fun diversion as well.
That said, the dances were hardly deserving of the word; it was more walking and scarf-twirling than anything else, and the costumes had a distinctly appropriative feel. While the lead performers were mic'ed (and did a lovely job - kudos to Merlin, the jester, Prince, and King for their work in engaging with the crowd!), the vast majority of any sung portions were lip synced (oftentimes inconsistently) and ensemble performers were underwhelming. Thankfully, the overall theatrics, pyrotechnics, are horsemanship more than make up for those shortcomings.
Ultimately, those looking for a family-friendly interactive experience will enjoy exactly that (paired with an evening of medieval entertainment) at The Tournament of Kings Dinner Show at Excalibur; those seeking a dance show can certainly take their pick of options elsewhere on the strip. Tickets available at excalibur.com.