Saturday, March 19, 2016 | 4:23 p.m.
Often the most apt assessment of an experience is what you said just as it finished.
Such as, “That kicked ass.”
Those are three words to mark the fourth “One Night For One Drop” on Friday night at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts. The annual Cirque du Soleil all-star show, which draws from all eight of its Strip residency productions, was soaring in every regard. Cirque director Hassan El Hajjami and his army of volunteer performers and support staffers clearly made the best use of the three-month prep period for this show.
“We always wonder if Cirque is going to be able to top itself,” said Cirque du Soleil Vice President of Resident Shows Jerry Nadal, who heads up the “One Drop” event. “I think, tonight, we did.”
Cirque made effective use of Reynolds Hall for its first full-scale production in Las Vegas that was not staged in one of its resident theaters. A team of aerialists bounded high above the stage, and artists employed long wands with illuminated silks to reflect an oceanic setting similar to the “Octopus’s Garden” number in “Love.” The video at the back of the stage, showing images of drought-stricken regions and the need for clean water, was particularly impressive.
Astute Cirque fans quickly recognized the use of rabbit costumes in a scene midway through the show, a long-gone effect of the original version of Criss Angel’s “Believe” at the Luxor. Leona Lewis, in fine voice and glittering gowns, performed two numbers in her guest appearance: “Bleeding Love” and “Thunder.” Miles “Baby Boogaloo” Brown of “Black-ish” was featured in a scene in which he tumbled into an open water hole (“Baby Boog” was later spotted playing croquet at the “Alice in Wonderland”-themed post-party).
Most important, the night generated $6.5 million for the One Drop Foundation, founded by Cirque creator Guy Laliberte to establish systems in regions across the globe that need access to sanitary and safe water. That sum, boosted by a live auction headed up by Christian Kolberg (where a Richard Mille RM 67-01 watch went for $90,000 and a McLaren 675LT Coupe went for $400,000), has topped $24 million in just four “One Drop” events in Las Vegas.
As always, the Cirque experience was not confined to the theater and spilled well into the early morning hours. More from the scene at the Smith Center:
• Cirque President Daniel Lamarre, who wears the blue-tinted glasses even when not attending the blue-themed “One Drop” production, said “Love” at the Mirage is due for one more major number and set piece before the show celebrates its 10th anniversary. That event is to be marked mid-July as the entire the Beatles hierarchy, including Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, return to Las Vegas for the revamped show.
• Caesars Entertainment exec Gene Lubas said there would be an announcement soon related to the company’s plans at Bally’s in the wake of the closing of “Jubilee” in February. There is electricity coming out of that hotel, and also Paris Las Vegas, with the opening of “53X” at Chateau.
• Cirque Theatrical President Scott Zeiger said the company is fired up about “Paramour,” which opens at the Lyric Theater on April 16. The first Cirque production to play Broadway stars Ruby Lewis, who shone in her role as Daisy in “For the Record: Baz” at Light at Mandalay Bay last summer. Lewis has been the focus of the production’s advance marketing campaign and is already becoming a prominent performer in New York before the show even launches.
• Bedecked in black leather and smiling through the night, Criss Angel arrived with Chloe Crawford as his +1, which only intensifies speculation about if or how she will be featured in his show “Mindfreak Live!,” under development at the Luxor. Officially, Angel is not revealing anything about the cast of that autobiographical production to replace “Believe,” which closes April 17. “Mindfreak Live!,” which follows Angel’s life and career through a series of highly advanced illusions, opens May 17.
• Many attendees who have seen every one of the four “One Drop” performances over the years said Friday’s was the favorite simply because of its neutral-site venue. Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall and Cirque matches the best of the best in the city, a point on which Smith Center President Myron Martin (as expected) agreed.
“We are Switzerland,” Martin said, “and that helped make this a great community event.”
• Las Vegas producer David Saxe, long a critic of Cirque's, attended the show and after-party. The latest from Saxe’s production fortress at Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood is he continues to tweak “Spoofical The Musical,” which opened last week at one of this V Theater venues. Edited away is a reference to the the 1997 auto accident in Paris that killed Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed. Cut previously were scenes targeting Angel, Celine Dion and Blue Man Group.
Saxe says “Spoofical” will continue to be altered according to fan reaction in the theater, such as the guy who shouted, “That’s terrible!” at the Princess Di scene (which was the sound of a crash and a hubcap rolling across the stage). Probably a good call there.
• Characteristically extravagant, Cirque’s post-show party was staged in a tent in the surface parking lot to the northeast of the Smith Center. Multicolored mushrooms, costumed characters (The Mad Hatter, White Rabbit and the like) filled the venue. Entertainment was highlighted by a set from Natasha Bedingfield, who took in the balance of the show at Reynolds Hall (and was warned about shooting video of the production). Chris Phillips followed with a hybrid Zowie Bowie lineup (with his ex Lydia Ansel back onstage playing violin alongside Phillips and singer Nieve Malandra). Phillips called up an unannounced guest, Hazel Payne of Taste of Honey, for the disco classic “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” and Team Fantasy also hit the stage in full “Alice” costumes, a great effect that I fully endorse for the topless revue at the Luxor.
Late in the night, a team of dancers from the show clambered onstage to perform a lengthy freestyle set. As they grooved to “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” by Michael Jackson, I found myself standing next to my buddy Mukhtar Omar Sharif Mukhtar, the former “One Night For One Drop” director for the shows at MJ One Theater at Mandalay Bay two years ago and Love Theater at Mirage in 2015.
“Let’s go up there, you and I, and floor the place,” I said to Mukhtar, a terrific dancer and choreographer who was in the original cast of “Love.” “If we do that, this crowd will forget everything they saw tonight.”
“Oh, no chance,” Mukhtar said, laughing and nodding toward the stage. “This is their night. This is their year.”