The Eldorado has traditionally mounted a Christmas show, usually full of happy singers and dancers tossing giant presents and entering on sleighs, but the show this year has no Santa in sight, and everybody is better off for it. “The Unbelievables Christmas Extravaganza” is more an old-fashioned variety show, with a few touches of cirque, packed with individual acts, but the format is the only traditional thing about it. These are acts that, for the most part, live up to the title.
It’s a short run, through Dec. 31 only, and that’s unfortunate because the show is one of the best the Eldorado has produced in the last few years. Its pace is one of the more impressive aspects of it, each act on and off in seemingly record time, all tied together with a host, Paul Dabek, who dispenses with the mundane activities so often accompanying such a role and introduces the show and fills interludes with truly delightful magic and comedy. Finding an audience member’s signed $20 bill in a previously concealed banana is hardly a new illusion, but his comments while peeling the banana are unforgettable. He even does shadow puppetry.
All the acts are superior and there’s a wide range. Jordan McKnight’s contortionism is fascinating if a bit painful to watch. Carola Serrano’s single-trapeze artistry is lovely. Sebastian Nicolas’s magic manipulation suffers at the start by being set downstage at some distance from most of the audience, but he is thoroughly redeemed in his closing close-up magic shown on a screen overhead.
Luis Dalton hand and finger balances but brings something unique to the act, balancing on a bottle. Eduardo Garza displays mastery of speed juggling at its best and most basic with clubs and balls. No chainsaws here; he needs no such gimmicks.
The standout segment belongs to Deng Lin and Miao Changwei, who combine ballet with acrobatics, difficult at best with all those lifts, but far exceeding the norm with her in toe shoes balancing on his head and pirouetting on his shoulders.
The lead act is Sara & Hero, familiar to audiences from their making it to the finals in the most recent “America’s Got Talent” competition. In around five minutes, this spectacular dog astounds with his ability, even at one point helping Sara twirl a jump rope for a second dog to skip.
No matter how excellent any individual act may be in this show, the effect is doubled by ingenious arranging of an array of Christmas music by the musical director and guitarist Shaun Jacobs, a leading recording artist from South Africa. Every piece of background music in this show (along with wonderful vocals by Nava Morris) should be recorded. (7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 5:30 and 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 7 p.m. Saturdays, 2 and 5:30 p.m. Sundays; $29.95-$49.95; eldoradoreno.com)
A few other hotels are defying the usually low attendance figures that usually accompany this pre-Christmas time:
Two casinos bring back powerhouses from the past with Cache Creek hosting Olivia Newton-John tonight and Saturday (8 p.m.; $75-$80; cachecreek.com); and the Nugget in Sparks bringing back Brenda Lee after a long absence (her “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is certainly timely) Saturday (8 p.m.; $50-$75; nuggetcasinoresort.com).