Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 | 2 a.m.
The Las Vegas Sun has covered Cirque du Soleil over the years, and you can see a range of commentary by clicking here.
Cirque du Soleil unveils “Michael Jackson: The Immortal Tour” today to Las Vegas audiences at Mandalay Bay, launching a 33-show run before heading across the country on tour. It is the latest offering from a company that has, over the past two decades, become intertwined with Las Vegas.
The company came to Las Vegas two decades ago with a circus tent and big dreams. The tent is long gone — Cirque has a string of specially designed theaters, and its big-budget extravaganzas dominate the Strip’s marquees. There are seven Cirque shows currently in residence in Las Vegas, though “Viva Elvis” is slated to depart Aria next year after failing to attract a large enough audience.
Still, by any measure, Cirque is an astounding success, and it is a classic Las Vegas success story. Like many people and companies that land in Southern Nevada, Cirque has its roots elsewhere — Montreal — but it found a home in the Mojave Desert. The company started relatively small and grew. Its rise came along with the incredible growth in Las Vegas and the boom of multibillion-dollar resorts.
Not all that long ago, it was hard to imagine that people would pay $100 for a ticket to any show in Las Vegas, but then Cirque started pushing the envelope with more expensive productions.
Over the years, the company has been criticized for its ticket prices. It may have paced the big, high-priced production shows, but it is hardly alone. As Strip resorts aimed their sights at luxury and upscale accommodations, they sought entertainment to match. A series of Broadway productions has played the Strip, commanding top dollar. Individual performers have done the same — Garth Brooks, anyone? No one should begrudge them that, and no one should hold their success against them. People are more than willing to buy tickets and, judging by how people keep returning, they’re obviously getting their money’s worth.
Some of Cirque’s critics complain that the company has taken over the showrooms and squeezed out live performers and the more traditional Las Vegas acts. Cirque certainly isn’t the “classic” Las Vegas act with showgirls or a stand-up comedian, but to blame it for pushing out other entertainers misses the point.
Cirque has created a new type of Las Vegas entertainment — a show that is an extravaganza, something you can’t see anywhere else. That’s why people pay the ticket prices they do — they’re going to see a type of entertainment they can’t find back home.
To us, that’s the essence of Las Vegas. People come here to see something new, and time and again people in Las Vegas take a chance and create something that couldn’t be done anywhere else. And Cirque certainly fits the bill. (Who else builds a 1.5 million-gallon pool as a “stage?”)
Las Vegas has long had a stunning concentration of top-notch entertainment options in the area, including Broadway-styled productions, live music acts and variety shows. And Cirque has fit right in.
No matter anyone’s personal views of entertainment, it seems clear that Cirque has enriched the entertainment community in town and added to Las Vegas’ brand. The company created a name for itself by being just as over-the-top as its adopted hometown. Take a good look at Cirque and you can see why people flock from all around the globe to come to the “entertainment capital of the world.”
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