Sin City visitors show increasing interest in shows before sunset, where the tickets are cheaper and the gags involve plate spinning and guinea pigs; ‘this is not Cirque’

LAS VEGAS—Let Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Penn & Teller and the other headliners reign over this city when the sun goes down.

The daylight hours belong to people like Mac King, a magician whose act features a dime-store yellow poncho he dubs the “cloak of invisibility” and an assistant who dons a bear suit. Or Jeff Civillico, a juggler whose skill set includes balancing a ladder on his chin.

Or Pete Vallee—aka “Big Elvis”—a 500-pound-plus singer with a velvety baritone who indeed may be the world’s biggest Elvis impersonator. He croons his way through “Viva Las Vegas” during a free lounge show that wraps up at 6 p.m.


Big Elvis

Before his morning commute to Harrah’s Las Vegas, Mr. King gets up early and drives his teenage daughter to school. Before Ms. Dion has chirped a single note, he has eaten dinner with his family and maybe fit in a game of croquet in the backyard.

“I’m usually asleep by 10,” he says.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the surprisingly mundane lifestyles of Las Vegas’s daytime entertainers, who make a much more “reasonable” living performing in front of smaller audiences, often for less than $50 a ticket (and way less if there’s a 2-for-1 discount).

To succeed in this world, it helps to have a gimmick—preferably something that appeals to people who haven’t started drinking yet. It also helps to have a healthy sense of humility.

“I’m really the least ambitious person I know,” says Mr. King, 56 years old, who has played afternoons in Vegas for close to two decades, making him the unofficial dean of the daytime set.

Mr. King’s antics include rope tricks and a bit involving an especially well-behaved guinea pig. Carl Anderson, a retiree from Toronto, has seen Mr. King’s show at least a half-dozen times in the course of visits to Vegas. “It’s just a good, fun afternoon,” he says.