Sunday, March 22, 2015 | 7:56 p.m.
2015 One Night for One Drop blue carpet/Richard Corey
A few years ago, a little more than three to be exact, I was speaking with longtime Las Vegas producer David Saxe about Cirque du Soleil. This was during about a monthlong series of conversations we had for a profile piece that would run on the cover of Las Vegas Weekly.
Saxe is a Las Vegas native, son of famed sax man Dick Saxe and “Folies Bergere” dancer Bonnie Saxe. He’s also founder of David Saxe Productions, with 10 shows in production at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Thus, Saxe is as Vegas as Vegas gets, and we talked extensively of Cirque du Soleil, noting the company’s expert production capacity.
“I know how hard it is to get just one thing right — just one thing in one scene — and Cirque does that great,” he said. “Their production value, how the shows are conceived and performed, are great.”
Now, understand that Mr. Saxe is not exactly the biggest proponent of Cirque’s dominance of the Strip entertainment scene. He has openly tweaked, mocked and teased the company with a series of commercials in which he appears with a smallish, mime-type character named “Eau.”
Saxe has complained about the sheer volume of Cirque productions in Las Vegas (eight today), often bitterly saying that they are derivative of one another and far distanced from traditional Las Vegas stage shows. He once took in a performance of “Ka” and fell asleep.
But even Cirque’s most aggressive detractors have to allow this: No production company, in VegasVille or anywhere, puts that one thing together better than Cirque du Soleil. The company proved it again Friday night in its annual “One Night for One Drop” charity show at “The Beatles’ Love” Theater in the Mirage.
The troupe was given 12 weeks to conceive, cast, write, design, choreograph, costume and rehearse this show that would play one time, one night, only to be disassembled forever. Next year, the Cirque crew will make a different show, on March 18 at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
It’s not certain yet if Mukhtar Omar Sharif Mukhtar, who has proven an indispensible asset to the Cirque family, will be at the rudder for that show. He’s a busy guy, for good reason. Mukhtar has grown into one of this city’s great visionaries and for the second consecutive year delivered a “One Night” show in which the audience was spirited away in a recitation of scenes telling the story of water scarcity and conversation.
More than 100 artists soared over the stage in the show’s many aerial acts. The Korean Plank and the springy mat used in “Michael Jackson One” at Mandalay Bay, the site of last year’s “One Night,” were rolled out in separate scenes. A dozen artists soared from trampolines that rose from the show’s elevated stage.
A sheen curtain was dropped as lifelike images were projected across the surface. One was a giant TV, reporting the worldwide water crisis, as artists wearing TVs as headgear looked on. The show was especially heavy with aerial acts, and the British twins Kevin and Andrew Atherton of “Zarkana” at Aria drew the requisite gasps as they spun some 50 feet over the crowd in a blend of aerial artistry and body balancing.
One artistic effect Cirque has perfected is taking such an act as body balancing and propelling it airborne. Cirque dancers and acrobats are not restricted by such niggling concerns as gravitational pull. The aerial pole act in “Michael Jackson One” is another example, the prop lifted high over the stage and audience so that the dancer can spin her magic.
John Legend, who managed to floor the crowd without bounding around the stage, supplied “One Night’s” singular star power. That was left to the artists performing in his midst as he sang “All of Me” and “Dreams,” joined by one of the world’s great cellists, Philip Sheppard, flown in from London for the show.
The performance ended with a standing ovation from the more than 2,000 people packing the theater, on a night when a record-setting $6 million was raised for One Drop. This is the global charity organization created by Cirque founder Guy Laliberte, who offered his own Hawaiian home for two separate weeklong vacations (earning more than $100,000 for each vacation stay; the home sits on 2 1/2 acres and has 10 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms and three guest villas).
An 18-karat gold bracelet encrusted with more than 100 karats of diamonds from Michael E. Minden went for $60,000. A Richard Mille RM 033 extra-flat automatic watch in 18-karat red gold sold for a bid of $120,000, or $5,000 above its listed estimated value.
In typical Cirque fashion, the night did not end with the show, as an after-party featuring a quick set by The Plain White T’s (the latest pickup by Seth Yudof’s UD Factory outfit) and dance music turned the clock to the morning.
Among those happily hoofing around the scene was Brian Dewhurst, the 82-tour-year-old acrobat and clown who remains the engine behind “Mystere” at Treasure Island.
Across the pool deck, a few of the kids in the production held a dance-off. The clock rolled past 1 a.m., and the scene was still abuzz, as it’s difficult to douse the energy of Cirque performers, even at an event immersed in water.
Nowhere did I see Mukhtar-Squared, as he’s often called. He made this single show count, and so did Cirque, which spans our city by the multitudes but delivers its art as one.