Mona Shield Payne
Published Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 | 11:28 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 | 11:49 a.m.
Guy Laliberte’s Cirque du Soleil is expanding into the development of unique theatrical opportunities with new productions, and this morning he announced that Scott Zeiger, the co-founding partner of Base Entertainment, will run the new division, Cirque Theatrical, as president and managing director starting in March.
It is certain to shake up the Las Vegas Strip entertainment scene and also the global theatrical business from New York’s Broadway to London’s West End and elsewhere around the world.
Although continuing to be based in New York, Scott is already well-known in Las Vegas. He helped create the successful six-year run of “Phantom — the Las Vegas Spectacular” at the Venetian. His credits also include “Rock of Ages” at the Venetian, “Jersey Boys” at Paris, “Absinthe” at Caesars Palace and launching “Peepshow” with Holly Madison at Planet Hollywood.
President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Daniel Lamarre commented: “Scott’s extensive experience in this important segment of the entertainment industry is a huge asset. We are thrilled that he has accepted the invitation to join our team.
“His outstanding reputation and credibility in theatrical and live entertainment are based on his past successes with major entertainment companies such as Clear Channel, SFX and, of course, Base Entertainment. Cirque du Soleil Theatrical will be a key player.”
I’ll talk with Scott more today, but he commented: “I have been close to and have worked with Cirque du Soleil for more than 10 years. I have witnessed their incredible ability to create, produce and distribute the very highest-quality live entertainment.
“This new venture for Cirque is very exciting for me, and I look forward to developing new theatrical productions and having access to the best creative talent in the world. I believe there is a huge potential for us on Broadway, the West End and global touring.”
The new productions from Cirque Theatrical will be created using its signature style and aesthetic but will provide a very different experience for Cirque audiences. Guy says it’s his continuing strategy to diversify his company’s content and live entertainment activities worldwide.
Scott also will work with a sister company, Cirque Eloize, to raise its development and theatrical venues promotion. Base Entertainment’s co-founder and CEO Brian Becker will continue under his leadership, and Scott will remain as a director.
Guy began Cirque with humble beginnings in 1984 as a street-performance company of stilt walkers and fire artists. Since then the company has grown to entertaining 150 million spectators in more than 300 cities on six continents and also enabled Guy to fulfill a lifelong dream of flying above Earth toward the moon on a commercial spaceship flight.
In his first interview after the announcement, Scott told me: “We’re not doing circuses. Cirque already has extraordinary shows with residencies and touring companies. We’re going to do the traditional with book, lyrics and definitive storylines. Even with traditional musicals, we would have interesting composers and lyricists and use traditional production numbers, but with spectacular features that only Cirque could produce with their overall artistic aesthetics.
“I’m not going to go to Broadway and rent a theater to present ‘Ka.’ But I will rent a theater for an original story or a licensed book or movie to be turned into a theatrical show. My assignment is to produce pure theatrical ventures, but with the artistry of Cirque.
“This new division will create shows that can be replicated and duplicated globally with other companies playing as far afield as London and Australia and New York. Guy says Cirque needs to grace those platforms, those stages, and that’s the project I am about to tackle. Until now, they haven’t, and it means we can use the strength of their wonderful, incredible facility in Montreal to achieve that together.
“We’re creating unique, cool, fun and successful shows with the goal of the most innovative productions in the best venues around the world.”
Scott says he’s not aiming specifically to increase Cirque’s presence on the Strip. “Las Vegas has proved theater works with our successful shows as the former ‘Phantom,’ the current ‘Rock of Ages,’ ‘Jersey Boys’ and now the upcoming return of ‘Mamma Mia!’
“If Cirque Theatrical produces a show on Broadway that could work in the Las Vegas environment, then Guy will place it there. My aim is at Broadway-type shows that can play anywhere in the world. My worry is solely to create unique content, and we’ll have announcements within the next few months about the first projects.”
Meantime at Base, it is business as usual. “I want it to be successful with its own new content in the future,” said Scott. “I’m still involved, and Brian, who will now run it, has a lot of new, solid things circulating, maybe one or two or three specifically winding up on the Strip.”
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.
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