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September 1, 2014

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Cirque reveals details of next One Drop fundraiser, lifts curtains for behind-the-scenes week

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Jackie Evancho performs during Cirque du Soleil’s “One Night for One Drop” at Bellagio on Friday, March 22, 2013.

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Mukhtar O.S. Mukhtar.

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Mukhtar O.S. Mukhtar.

Earlier this year, Cirque du Soleil dancer Mukhtar O.S. Mukhtar, who portrays Indian love god Krishna in Cirque’s “The Beatles’ Love” at the Mirage, choreographed Guy Laliberte’s first One Night for One Drop water spectacular, and now this week he’s been named director and conceptor of the second-annual show to be held March 21 at “Michael Jackson One” Theater in Mandalay Bay.

Whereas the one-night-only Bellagio performance March 22 focused on water acts, I’ve learned that Mukhtar’s vision for the new production is “desertification, a land where there is no water.”

He told me today: “I started on the project two months ago, and the full creative team has now been put together to bring it to life. Rehearsals will start this coming week, and the building of original acrobatic equipment starts. Everything will be original — the music, the costumes, the story, the elements.

“It’s totally different from the first one, which was a series of acts, whereas this will be a story from start to finish as one main character serves as our navigator on a journey supported by other artists. He wants to discover the problem as to why there isn’t water — and solve that.

“The desertification is one of the four elements. There will be an act with rain, but we have to keep some secrets for the night of the performance. My inside title for the show is One Thought, One World, where we shape our thoughts to create the world we want to live in — I’ll only show water at the end of his journey at the end of the show.”

Our full interview with more details will be posted next week.

Mukhtar tells me that he has been directing, choreographing and dancing for more than 12 years, fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a performer. Born in Saudi Arabia, he attended the University of Westminster in my hometown of London, where he studied forensic science but trained as a dancer/choreographer.

His hip-hop company Plague was one of the most successful in Britain and in 2003 won their first U.K. Streetdance Championship, defeating 25 other companies for the title of being the best in Britain. In 2005, Plague danced to first place at the World Hip-Hop International Championships in Los Angeles. His company still holds the title as the only U.K. crew to have ever won the award.

It was there that Cirque execs discovered him and recruited him to play the role of Krishna. After also creating elements in “Love,” he choreographed a special Cirque production in Germany and on a hiatus from “Love” acted in his first Bollywood movie, “Sing Is King,” and choreographed and performed in the 2008 Beijing Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.

Four years ago, Mukhtar returned to Las Vegas and became involved in Cirque’s first 3-D movie, “World’s Away,” and continues to perform as Krishna and understudy two principal characters, The Walrus and Dr. Robert. He also is in the process of directing a two-hour original show for Absolut vodka and Sid Lee, which will tour Brazil and land in New York next year after his One Night for One Drop show.

Next Tuesday afternoon, Cirque guests will have the first opportunity to meet Mukhtar in the “Mystere” showroom at Treasure Island when he will present the first video imagery of his ideas for the show.

One Night for One Drop

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Cirque du Soleil's 'One Night for One Drop'

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Guy Laliberte and Antonio Esfandiari during the Big One for One Drop at the Rio on Tuesday, July 3, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Last year, more than 230 artists from every Cirque show on the Strip joined with teen singing sensation Jackie Evancho, real-life mermaid Hannah Fraser, painter David Garibaldi, dancer Sonya Tayeh and composer Danny Elfman for One Night for One Drop.

Mukhtar promises even bigger and better: “We will have 60 to 80 artists this time, which is less than the previous 230, but that’s all we need for this concept. We’re hoping many more celebrities will be involved, though, and two or three will actually be integrated into the storyline of the show. I guarantee it will be totally different from the first one because of the full storyline,” he told me.

His appointment comes as Cirque celebrates its 20th anniversary of shows on the Strip with the fourth-annual behind-the-scenes look at casts, crews and performers. Cirque Week starts Saturday at “Zumanity” in New York-New York, where the cast will let visitors watch rehearsals before a Q+A and showcase of the Thierry Mugler fashions of the sensual show. On Sunday, performers and technicians at “O” in Bellagio host a Q+A with a fire-on-water demonstration.

“Zarkana” at Aria will become a university course on Monday with attendees getting hands-on instruction for rigging, clowning, juggling and body percussion. On Tuesday after Mukhtar’s introductions, the fantastical characters of “Mystere” take to the stage to share the inspiration for the two-decade-old beloved characters.

On Wednesday, guests will be taught ‘Thriller” choreography at “Michael Jackson One.” There will be a special display and manipulation of puppetry at “Ka” in MGM next Thursday, and Criss Angel hosts a Q+A with members of his production team at “Believe” in Luxor after a special screening of an advance episode of his new Spike TV hit, also titled “Believe.”

Cirque’s special week ends next Saturday, Nov. 16., at “Love” with a dance workshop hosted by Katy Tate and the show’s dance captains teaching fans a routine to Beatles music.

Cirque founder Guy Laliberte and President Daniel Lamarre will be on hand to meet fans and media next week to help promote One Night for One Drop, which is Guy’s nonprofit that strives to ensure that water is accessible to all for the future. Guy himself has pledged to donate $100 million over 25 years, and since it began in 2007, more than $41 million has been raised and already given 25,000 people in different lands access to water.

His debut $1 million World Series of Poker tournament “Big One “ buy-in resulted in a $5.7 million donation in 2012 for the charity; Guy gifted his own fifth-place winnings of $1.8 million. Several of those $48 million players, including $18 million winner Antonio “The Magician” Esfandiari, are expected to reunite with newcomers for the second edition when it starts over three days on June 29 at Caesars Palace. Capped at 56 players, the top prize could be $20 million-plus, and its final July 1 table will be televised live.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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