Thursday, Sept. 16, 2004 | 8:17 a.m.
Cirque du Soleil unveiled its new $135 million theater and gave a peek at its $30 million production, "KA," at the MGM Grand Wednesday.
The $165 million price tag eclipses the $66 million, adult-themed "Zumanity" across the Strip at New York-New York, which opened a year ago.
The magnificent theater also surpasses the $95 million cost of The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, home to Celine Dion's "A New Day ..."
"If you compare that to the entire cost of all Broadway shows in 2003, which was $135 million, ours exceeds all of them," MGM Grand President Gamal Aziz said. "But we have proven with 'O' and 'Mystere' that these shows can be quite profitable for us.
"So we are quite comfortable with our investment."
"KA," a 90-minute show, is scheduled to premiere at the 1,951-seat theater on Nov. 26. Tickets, ranging from $99 to $150, are on sale now.
Cirque's latest production will contain the signature cast of acrobats, but also will include martial artists, puppetry, pyrotechnics and multimedia elements. It features 72 performers.
And it adds something else to the company's repertoire of shows -- one with a storyline.
Cirque founder Guy Laliberte said the 90-minute production "is the most theatrical show we've ever done."
Film and theater director Robert Lepage created the production, which is described as an epic saga about twins -- a boy and a girl -- who "are separated by fate and embark on a perilous journey to fulfill their linked destinies."
"We wanted it to be an epic story told not with the use of words, but with the universal language of body movement and music," Lepage said. "And, in the Cirque du Soleil tradition, a bit of gibberish."
According to the producers, the title, "KA," came from an ancient Egyptian belief in an invisible spiritual duplicate of the body that accompanies every human being through this life and the afterlife.
At Wednesday's news conference two scenes from the production were performed -- one involving martial artists and one involving a giant contraption called "The Wheel of Death."
As in all Cirque du Soleil productions, the costumes are extraordinary, the acrobatics breathtaking and the theater itself an experience to behold.
The space was most recently used for the production "EFX Alive." But anyone who attended "EFX" will not recognize the room.
The auditorium is flanked by rows of 50-foot high wooden columns that support turrets. Instead of a stage, there is an abyss -- a void out of which stages emerge from 40 feet below.
Set designer Mark Fisher, who has worked with such performers as Elton John, Shania Twain and Tina Turner, designed the theater's renovation.
Fisher said he was trying to create a feeling of a cross between a cathedral and an old temple -- some kind of mythic temple that had been on the site and they opened the wall and found this chamber."
"It came out of a lot of discussions," he said. "And also out of a reaction to 'EFX.' I had been there many times as visitor, and it was a most horrible showroom."
Fisher said even before he knew what Cirque's latest production was going to be, he knew he was going to make major changes in the room.
"I wanted to create a room with a greater sense of drama and space," Fisher said.
The room begins with the entry.
"We have stolen some space from the casino to make a proper lobby and the processional entry," he said. "We removed the old center entrance, which was a very traditional sort of Las Vegas entry, but which has always seemed to me to be very disadventageous to a sense of drama."
Some of the thoughts that went into the creation of the set include the idea of "doing away with gravity, to some extent -- and so the idea of a void came out of that."
"If I wanted to achieve anything -- you just want people's jaws to drop. In this room I wanted that moment to be when you come up the ramp, turn the corner and you just go 'I don't believe it.'
"It's show business. We're not making art here, we're making pleasure and excitement. We're making escapism."