Monday, Dec. 1, 2008 | 2 a.m.
IF YOU GO
What: “Mystere” by Cirque du Soleil
When: 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday (dark Thursday and Friday)
Where: Mystere Theatre at Treasure Island
Admission: $30-$95; 796-9999, www.treasureisland.com
Running time: 90 minutes
During the month of December, Sun critic Joe Brown is visiting and revisiting every Cirque du Soleil show on the Strip, in chronological order. His reviews will appear on Mondays in the Las Vegas Sun and at www.lasvegasssun.com.
Next week: “O” at the Bellagio
Beyond the Sun
“Mystere” is Cirque Classique.
The first Cirque du Soleil spectacle to make a permanent home on the Las Vegas Strip, it’s still No. 1 in many hearts. “Mystere” celebrates its 15th anniversary this month, and it hasn’t been dated in any essential way. I’d go so far as to call it timeless.
When it opened at Treasure Island, in 1993, “Mystere” established a new standard for Las Vegas — and anywhere — for an all-enveloping theatrical experience. A quantum leap for circus artistry and production shows in general, the surround sound-and-spectacle unfurls within an elegant indoor interpretation of a classic Big Top tent.
It always pays to arrive a bit early for a Cirque show, if only to get snacks and absorb the atmosphere. The “Mystere” stage is saturated in Carnaval hues of green, purple and gold, beneath a graceful canopied ceiling that carries out TI’s treasure map theme.
You also don’t want to miss a moment of the now customary preshow playing with the audience. A mischievous clown ushers unsuspecting patrons to their seats, leading them on goose-chase journeys that can end in a baptism by popcorn. I had an evening’s worth of big laughs before the show even officially started.
Like most Cirque shows, “Mystere” follows a somewhat pretentious story line of sorts. With “Mystere,” the framework is an allegory of the origin and evolutionary ascent of humankind (but you needn’t know that to enjoy what follows).
Accordingly, it all begins with a Big Bang — an enormous double-headed Japanese Taiko drum sensationally suspended over the audience, played by two drummers, who, even more sensationally, pound out a primal heartbeat while hanging upside down.
“Mystere” is marked by its array of entrancing entrances, including the appearance of a baby carriage glowing from within, introducing a big baby toying with an even bigger ball — and the audience. It’s one of the show’s most delightful recurring bits.
But the entrance that stays in my memory is the lizardlike creatures who clamber head first down the walls. They lead into a fluid sequence of physics-defyng acts, including a muscleman who juggles a gleaming cube, moving within and without the geometric figure, recalling Leonardo’s drawings of the human figure.
Gravity is apparently suspended within the “Mystere” environment, with precisely in-sync athlete/artists moving in every direction on the Chinese poles, Korean plank (or teeterboard) and bungee. There are also multiple acts of mass trampolining, with acrobats ricocheting around like human popcorn and executing a “Soul Train” line of intricate leaps, bounds and loop-de-loops.
Directed by Franco Dragone, who went on to create the unprecedentedly successful “A New Day” for Celine Dion, “Mystere” may just be the most relaxing of the six resident Cirque shows. The music soothes and stimulates, a primordial soup of early Pink Floyd, pan flutes and Irish reels, performed by a 10-piece orchestra (including two vocalists) positioned above the stage in twin balconies.
And the dance, puppetry and acrobatics are wondrous and even somehow comforting: While watching the cooperative artistry of 14 aerialists swinging from a great height, it may occur to you that if humans can do this, we’re all going to be OK.
The sole element of “Mystere” that betrays the production’s age is the video projections, which look a bit primitive by today’s Cirque standards.
But from its Big Bang beginning to the pulse-pounding finale, “Mystere” had me clapping and cheering just like the 5-year-old kid sitting in front of me.
So happy birthday, “Mystere.” Long may you run.