Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Cirque du Soleil’s annual One Night for One Drop event has featured some big names in recent years, including singer Leona Lewis and pop culture icon William Shatner. But this year’s show, set for March 2 at the Michael Jackson One Theatre at Mandalay Bay, doesn’t just have a star. It’s all about that star.
Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Jewel will be teaming with performers from various local Cirque shows for an original production to benefit the international foundation One Drop (created by Cirque founder Guy Laliberté) dedicated to providing access to safe water in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities. “Zumanity” performers Nicky and Laetitia Dewhurst once again serve as writers and directors of this year’s show, which is inspired by Jewel’s life story.
After last week’s preview of two scenes from the show—one of which featured Jewel’s breathtaking performance of “Mercy”—the singer known for pop hits “Who Will Save Your Soul” and “You Were Meant For Me” said working with the Cirque team is like a dream.
“Seeing my life story portrayed by these artists, Nicky and Laetitia, and not even done with words but literally just with movement, it’s been like a peyote-journey spirit trip,” she laughed. “It’s been incredible. I’ve always been protective of my story … but I really felt like Cirque is very uniquely qualified to talk about these themes in a very metaphorical way, to be symbolic without getting mired in the details. This has been a perfect forum.”
Jewel told her own story in the 2015 memoir “Never Broken,” which went beyond the well-known tale of an Alaskan teen beginning her music career after living out of her car. The One Drop show similarly goes in a different direction.
“I wrote my memoir because I finally felt, at 40, that it was time, and I knew what I wanted to say: We all have pain and what do we do with pain,” Jewel said. “In talking with Nicky and Laetitia, I didn’t want [the show] to be about me. It doesn’t go into being discovered, being homeless. It really isn’t about my music career at all, it’s much more relational. If you’re in the audience you should feel like this is your story. It’s about love and loss and betrayal and forgiving. Who can’t relate to that?”
The performer portraying the Jewel character, Nukka, is Marina Boutina, an aerialist from “The Beatles Love” at the Mirage. And her background is similar in some ways to Jewel’s upbringing.
“I was born in West Siberia, which is similar to Alaska, very cold, lots of snow,” Boutina said. “I grew up there until I was 16. When we started to talk about these storylines, I read [Jewel’s] book and did see some similarities. I grew up in a very small city without a lot of access or options. I never thought I would be in the U.S. From a little town in Russia I flew to Montreal and was offered a contract and from that point my life changed. It was, oh my God, I’m a Cirque du Soleil artist, and I was still a little girl. And Jewel left home when she was 16.”
Boutina performed in the One Drop show two years ago but an injury limited her role, so she’s beyond excited to get another chance to play an essential part in this year’s production. Other main characters include Nukka’s father, played by “The Beatles Love” aerial coach Gabriel Manta—who came out of performance retirement for this show—and “Mystere” favorite Jonathan Vellner as Clown Bear, Nukka’s companion.
For more information about One Night for One Drop, visit onenight.onedrop.org.