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August 27, 2014

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The Earth Globe: 12 feet of painstaking craftsmanship from Team Cirque

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L.E. Baskow

Fabricators with “One Night for One Drop” prepare their completed Earth Globe for transport while continuing work of the bedroom set props Thursday, March 13, 2014, for the upcoming show at Michael Jackson One Theater at Mandalay Bay. The one-night-only performance is March 21.

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Fabricators with “One Night for One Drop” prepare their completed Earth Globe for transport to the Michael Jackson One Theater at Mandalay Bay on Thursday, March 13, 2014.

They knew that it wouldn’t fit through the door. That is important to know about members of the crew who built this giant Earth Globe being used in Cirque du Soleil’s “One Night for One Drop” charity show Friday night at Mandalay Bay.

This orb is 12 feet around, made of aluminum, painstakingly welded together and shaped by a half-dozen guys over a five-day period. That work, all of it conducted at Ka Theater in MGM Grand, was finished the morning of March 11.

As noted, the globe is not in “Ka” and has no business, post-construction, at MGM Grand. A truck was driven to the theater’s loading dock to transport the piece to Michael Jackson One Theater at Mandalay Bay, where the door through which the piece was supposed to enter the venue was about half the size of the orb.

Which came as no surprise.

“So we are cutting the globe in half,” says Aaron Hutch, head of central fabrication for Cirque in Las Vegas. “We knew that we would have to cut it in half and reattach it when it’s back in place.”

Which did happen, and the globe will be used in “One Night” at Mandalay Bay, where it will be “skinned” to look like planet Earth, illuminated inside, and around which child artists will dance and extol the virtues of water and water conservation.

This is but one set piece in a show that is being fully assembled, and then dismantled, for a single performance. The show draws artists from all of Cirque’s Las Vegas productions, which will be dark for this “one night.” The show is set for 7:30 p.m. Tickets in the $225-$325 range are available on the “One Night” website.

The globe is one of the nonhuman highlights of the production, as is its complementary piece, a giant wooden garment closet also constructed at MGM Grand. That might make a great addition to an oversized, "Alice in Wonderland"-themed children’s bedroom someday should the Cirque crew decide to auction off the sets from “One Night.”

“We haven’t decided what will happen once the show is over,” Hutch said. “We’ve definitely put a lot of work into them all for this show.”

The Earth Globe is a chief example of that work. The silver, skeletal orb weighs 700 pounds and is made of lightweight aluminum. If filled with water, it would hold 7,000 gallons, or half the size of an average swimming pool. A total of 860 welds were used to fasten the 12 vertical ribs, the 72 pieces that make up the six horizontal rings and the two rings at the top and bottom of the globe.

Inspectors checked every single one of those welds, too, to make certain that they would withstand the tension of a stage performance. Then the crew took a blowtorch to the piece, carefully taking it apart for transport.

“We had two choices,” Hutch said. “We could either build two halves here (at MGM) and attach them at Mandalay Bay or build the piece entirely here and know it would fit together.”

As it was, Hutch has made the right call, a decision befitting a production that is, typical of Cirque, otherworldly.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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