Of swords and fire
Fear not, watchers of sword-and-sorcery fictional fantasy television series. Deep in the realm of Excalibur Hotel & Casino you’ll find games, thrones, wizards and fools, kings and knights, damsels and steeds. Tournament of Kings opens the royal arena to all lords and ladies who come to witness knights pay tribute to King Arthur in the land of Las Vegas, where a hearty three-course medieval-style meal awaits and bold choruses of “Huzzah!” mark the beginning of festivities.
National loyalties within the 900-seat arena are divided between Austria, France, Hungary, Ireland, Russia, Sweden and Spain. A special section is saved for devotees of the Dragon, who should be shouted down by the “good” countries if chivalric code is going to be followed in any sense of the word. Enthusiasm fuels victory at Tournament of Kings. Fighting knights are powered by fists proudly pounding out martial rhythms on wooden tables and cheers of their fellow countrymen. “Be loud and be proud,” is the order of the day.
Your guide is the wizard, who shoots sparks from one end of the grandstands to the other. He’s joined by a court jester who entertains the audience while dragon-bisque soup is served. (Should a spectator have informed the court of the birthday before the show, it will be announced to all present at this time.) Then the king makes his entrance, the roundtable descends from the rafters and the royal court joins the Cornish hen feast as King Arthur leads a rousing sing-a-long and scarves swirl while ladies dance with high-kicking grace.
Then the games begin. Knights ride into the arena on powerful steeds prepared for battle. Swords emit sparks as they clang, bodies hurl against each other in mortal combat, lances shatter as riders are knocked from the saddle. There is fire, explosions, dark forces that must be defeated, and a final victory that determines the fate of the kingdom.
Audiences are also exposed to the art of dressage, as one esteemed lady of the court rides a horse specially trained to exhibit poise and graceful gaits. There are 22 horses in the Tournament of Kings stable and 10 are used during the show, so they are well rested when it’s their turn to join the six-night-a-week (dark on Tuesdays) production.
It’s hard to say who are the biggest stars—the horses, the humans, the pyrotechnics or the audience? They are the four elements that make Tournament of Kings an entertainment form all its own, and when all four are supercharged the show is superlative.
The production is celebrating its 20th year at Excalibur, although its roots there go back a decade further. That’s nearly three decades of fine-tuning the live-action fantasy for maximum enjoyment, and its final season is nowhere in sight. There’s also an arcade where carnival prizes can be won and children of all ages can be occupied until show time, when the doors to another world of fantasy are opened to them.
Excalibur, 6 p.m. Mon. & Fri., 6 & 8:30 p.m. Wed.-Thurs. & Sat.-Sun., additional 8:30 p.m. show June 17, starting at $55.95 dinner and show. 702.597.7600