The holidays are great, but it’s actually country music season on the Las Vegas Strip. After relocating to Arlington, Texas, to maintain during last year’s pandemic spike, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo comes home to Las Vegas starting on December 2, and it’s bringing all the concerts and parties that come along with it.

The coming week also marks a significant passing of the torch for Vegas entertainment. Together in Vegas, the co-headlining country music residency from Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace, is closing out a successful six-year run on the Strip with its final eight shows on December 1-15. At the same time, Carrie Underwood launches her first Strip residency show, Reflection, at the new Resorts World Theatre, with six performances beginning December 1.

All four artists have long been household names for country fans, and McEntire and Underwood sang together with Loretta Lynn on Lynn’s March album and its title track “Still Woman Enough.”

Country music has only intensified its presence in Las Vegas through the years with multiple superstar residencies, awards shows in casino arenas and all the big concert tours dashing across the country. Of the four headliners announced at Resorts World, two are country artists, with Luke Bryan firing up his own show in February.

Of course, Underwood wasn’t originally scheduled to open the 4,700-seat Resorts World Theatre. Celine Dion pulled out of her November 5 debut show in October due to medical issues and has not yet announced rescheduled dates for what will be her third Las Vegas Strip residency production.

Resorts World, which opened in June, and entertainment partner AEG Presents took a hit with that change in plans. The theater was ready to go, and the cast and crew of Dion’s show were on site and in rehearsals, but the massive new resort won’t get to experience its full programming potential until that venue is active. It’s also important to note that Dion was only available for her Resorts World residency because the pandemic scrambled her world tour schedule, now expected to resume in March in Denver.

The Dion delay, coupled with Allegiant Stadium opening to capacity crowds earlier this year, might have cast a temporary shadow on the Resorts World Theatre, but Underwood should easily remove it. The dynamic new venue’s size and design will be compared to the Colosseum and to Dolby Live at Park MGM, but as the newest such space on the Strip, Resorts World Theatre was conceived with maximum versatility in mind, along with convenience for its superstar headliners and audiences.

It has a four-story lobby and atrium space that feels substantially more grand than its competitors, along with a private lounge, a dedicated VIP entrance and room built specifically for meet-and-greets with the artists. Inside the theater, seating is distributed over a wide orchestra floor and two balcony levels, with the farthest only 150 feet away from one of the largest stages on the Strip. Capacity can max out at 5,000, and lighting, video and audio specs are as good as it gets.

In addition to Underwood, Bryan, Dion and Katy Perry (who opens on December 29), AEG has booked another superstar headliner for the Resorts World Theatre and is expected to announce that act soon. But for now, it’s all about the music, the big country comeback and the newest Vegas venue making noise on the Strip.

CARRIE UNDERWOOD: REFLECTION December 1, 3-4, 8 & 10-11, 8 p.m., $98+. Resorts World Theatre, 702-676-7000.

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