Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 | 3:58 p.m.
Just like millions of global TV viewers, the Venetian and Palazzo President John Caparella says that he was awestruck while watching the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Remember those five Fuwa mini pandas who were the good-luck mascots of the Games?
Tonight, he plans the same excitement onstage at the Palazzo Theater when an unprecedented theatrical spectacular produced by the team behind those extraordinary creations opens there.
“Panda!” is unequaled because it’s the first residency show debuting on the Strip directly from China, and the one-of-a-kind show is ready to go right up against its Cirque du Soleil competitors.
Chinese director An Zhao says his authentic show has a cast of world-class performers with boundless talents, including high-flying artists from China National Acrobatic Troupe, China Star Dance Troupe and Shaolin Monastery Kung Fu Monks Troupe, who perform 18 martial-arts skills.
“We have taken two of China’s national treasures, pandas and kung fu, and illuminated them in a visually stunning production that tells an unforgettable and timeless story,” said the director. “There’s never been a show like this before, and, just as in Beijing, I know that it will also leave Las Vegas audiences in awe.”
Contributing photographer Tom Donoghue and Christopher DeVargas of the Las Vegas Sun were on hand for an advance unveiling of the unparalleled, mesmerizing martial arts, music and dance spectacle. The dragon may well be China’s official emblem, but the panda has become the country’s international symbol.
The official premiere is Saturday, and the 20 contestants in the 2014 Miss Nevada USA Pageant this weekend at UNLV will be applauding from the front row.
The dazzling graphics and effects on the stage rear wall giant video screen are a knockout and dramatic in their own right . However, it’s the adorable pandas who will win the audience’s hearts. Just look at that boutique display already set up to greet audiences in the lobby. Tell me they don’t make you smile!
The opening was planned for December but was delayed by a month due to visa paperwork problems. The performers, however, continued with their rehearsals in China while 10 container trucks of stage sets, scenery technical equipment and costumes were shipped here, unloaded and then set up at Palazzo.
“Panda!” is a Far East version of the global search for true love, and Long Long, the hero Panda, faces trials, dangers and challenges to find his Peacock Princess bride who is kidnapped on their wedding day.
His journey to track down the Demon Vulture and his gang take him over icebergs, underwater, through rugged forests and atop tall cliffs. Long Long even does battle with help from the Monkey King against a Golden Lion.
With Saturday’s official premiere of the production, executives and producers are ready for the Chinese New Year celebrations here beginning Jan. 31, the first day of the year of the Chinese calendar for the Year of the Horse.
Here in Las Vegas, though, it will be known as the Year of the “Panda!” show. You can bet those traditional celebration red paper envelopes containing money will wind up in the boutique buying those lovable fuzzy toys. Xin Nian Kuai Le! Happy Chinese New Year!
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.
With top accommodations, first-rate entertainment, high-end shopping and a slew of acclaimed chefs, the Palazzo has positioned itself as one of the most luxurious resorts on the Strip.
More than 3,000 all-suite rooms start at 740 square feet and are decorated in a modern, yet classic, Italian style. Each room features a sleeping area, with a king or two queens, and a sunken living room area with floor to ceiling windows.
A cathedral ceiling tops the Palazzo casino, while a second 80-foot dome brings natural light to the property's lobby. The 105,000 square foot casino features more than 2,000 slots and 80 table games but lacks the stale smell of cigarettes, as the property is LEED certified with smoking off limits in most of the Palazzo — including 50 percent of the casino floor.
Dining at the Palazzo is among the best of the Strip, starting with Wolfgang Puck's CUT. Chef Simon To serves up authentic Chinese cuisine at Zine, while Sushisamba combines Brazilian and Peruvian flavors with Japanese techniques. At LAVO, club-goers can dine on Mediterranean dishes before heading upstairs to the bath house-inspired nightclub.