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November 19, 2017

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Steve Wynn reveals new show ‘Funhouse’ slated for 2013 at Encore Theater


The Associated Press

Steve Wynn answers questions about his upcoming wedding to Andrea Hissom in Las Vegas on April 27, 2011.

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Garth Brooks and Steve Wynn backstage at Encore Theater in the Wynn before Brooks' final performance Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012.

'Le Reve - the Dream' at Wynn

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Hotel tycoon Steve Wynn, who was among the first boosters of Cirque du Soleil’s conquest of the Strip, believes that he’s created his own show to give the giant French-Canadian entertainment company a run for its money in Las Vegas.

“It’s never been seen before. It’s never been thought of before. All completely original. It was running around in my brain for so long, I could see it. It was time to come up with something completely different to Cirque shows. I’m ready for that, and so are our casino guests,” he told me at the Garth Brooks wrap party early Sunday morning.

Steve, who for a time hired Cirque’s one-time head honcho Franco Dragone to create “Le Reve -- the Dream” at the Wynn, is getting ready now to launch his very own “Funhouse.”

It’s a secret project he began six months ago. First, he hired Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” show director Kenny Ortega to help execute it. Kenny also created Michael’s “Dangerous World Tour” and the “HIStory World Tour” in addition to the “High School Musical” trilogy, Sirens of T.I. and the event choreography for the 1996 and 2002 Olympics, Super Bowl XXX and the 72nd Academy Awards.

My longtime pal Kenny has already brought in “The Lion King” puppet designer Michael Curry as part of Steve’s all-star team. Michael, also known for inflatables, created the robotic King of Pop figure in the floating balloon for Cirque’s current arena touring show “Immortal.” Also on the team: acclaimed theatrical set designer Mark Fisher, a British architect who has staged Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and U2 concert tours. Mark was hailed as the genius behind Cirque’s “Ka” performed in a theater but without a stage -- just extraordinarily and technically complex sets.

Kenny introduced them to me at last week’s Blue Man Group premiere, telling me they are now all in Las Vegas working on Steve’s new show. Steve believes rehearsals will get underway early in the New Year for a planned opening next winter in Encore Theater, where Garth played his final show Saturday night.

“I came from the rehearsal studios this afternoon,” Steve told me at chef David Walzog’s Lakeside Grill early Sunday morning.“ My team has picked the most incredible lineup of dancers. The girls are the most beautiful and the men the most handsome. They are the greatest I’ve ever seen.

“I’ve put together a whole bunch of guys who are into the newest technology and projection, among other things. We are going to have a new show that is not a revue. It’s not Cirque!

“I have come up with a totally new, unique idea. The idea is life can be joyful, it can be sad, it can be happy, it can be frightening. Although we would never frighten anybody; that wouldn’t be polite.

“I wanted to capture the one thing about life that’s for sure, and that is things are never what they first appear to be. We are going to under promise and over deliver. We have a format in place where things start off to be one thing and then become another.

Garth Brooks Press Conference

Garth Brooks speaks during a press conference on the debut night of his new show in Encore Theater at the Wynn on Dec. 11, 2009. Launch slideshow »

“By the time we get 10 minutes into the show, the audience will be totally wondering what ever could possibly be next. It was my idea. It came out of my brain. I wanted something that had never been thought of before. I wanted something totally new and different. I put the guys together and gave them examples.

“I had to oversimplify it. The first working idea when I explained it was that the prototype of all these shows is ‘Ziegfeld Follies.’ Ziegfeld, the top American impresario from the early 1900s, combined ‘Folies Bergere’ and all the French fantasy shows. He had big productions with the big dance companies and the big broads with the feathers.

“In my brain, my show had the most gorgeous dance company in the world come out, in some huge number, and then all of the sudden, all the dancers lean over as if they are attached to the floor, and they are parallel to the floor or backwards, and they keep dancing. They are not attached to anything, and you say what just happened? All of the sudden, the whole lineup of the dance company starts to float.

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Kenny Ortega and Michael Jackson with the 12 dancers selected for Michael's upcoming This Is It concert run at London's O2 Arena. The dancers were chosen from 5,000 applicants.

“No wires, I said. We never explain that we did an illusion or that we did any special effects. We almost apologize, that what things appear to be, they never are. If this was a Cirque show, they always have the strength act as the big finale. It’s the trick of tricks with one acrobat head-to-head with the other guy straight up in the air with no hands. The crowd is amazed, and they walk off balanced on each other’s shoulders. The crowd claps!

“In my concept, for example, though, as the audience applauds, all of the sudden, the guy on the bottom turns around, walks over and bows. He leaves the other guy hanging, but the other guy doesn’t have a wire on him. Now we are not going to do that, but it’s my example of the miracles my team can create. If I had a juggler, I’d show a clumsy juggler at first who couldn’t catch the balls. Everybody would say what kind of B.S. is that for an act. Then he’d throw all the balls up in the air, and they’d hover there until they dropped down one at a time so he could catch them.

“We’re making everything so that it never appears to be what you think it is. What we’re doing is totally new and unique. We are all so excited about what we’re creating, it’s mind-blowing to us now at this stage. Wait as it keeps moving down the track! When we say ‘never seen before,’ we really mean it.”

Steve told me that he originally wanted the working title of “Follies,” but he liked “Funhouse” that Kenny dubbed it, and that name has now stuck. Vegas DeLuxe will continue to keep you up-to-date with its progress and performance dates once rehearsals in Encore Theater get underway in February.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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