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January 18, 2019

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Ambitious Cirque du Soleil production ‘One Night for One Drop’ is a one-night affair to raise millions

'One Night for One Drop'-Cirque du Soleil-Rehearsal

Cirque du Soleil

Rehearsal for “One Night for One Drop” at Bellagio.

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Rehearsal for "One Night for One Drop" at Bellagio.

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Rehearsal for "One Night for One Drop" at Bellagio.

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Rehearsal for "One Night for One Drop" at Bellagio.

One Drop

One Drop's The Big One at the Rio

World Series of Poker Executive Director Ty Stewart at One Drop's The Big One announcement at the Rio on June 2, 2011. Launch slideshow »

It’s only one night, but it might be the most ambitious production Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte has ever dreamed up. The special show will have 237 performers onstage. There will be 60 in the crew backstage to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Another 75 are on the creation team for everything from makeup to costumes.

There will be no previews. There will be no lion’s den for family and friends to identify flaws. From conceptual planning last August to the start of rehearsals in December, it will all come down to 90 minutes in “O” theater in the Bellagio with everything on the line. Most details will remain secret until the night itself.

Cirque’s worldwide team wants the March 22 event to be the biggest-ever splash for “One Night for One Drop.” The pun is intentional. It’s a benefit performance of a global philanthropy event to raise money and awareness for water issues worldwide. One Drop is the nonprofit created by Guy to reverse the world’s growing water crisis.

Las Vegas resident Krista Monson, who began her Cirque career in 2004 as the artistic coordinator of “O,” is directing “One Night One Drop.” A busy director, producer and collaborator, she has choreographed more than 40 musicals in her native Canada, L.A., Tokyo, Paris and now here. She was the choreographer for the opening and closing ceremonies of the World Championships in Athletics.

The project is a monumental undertaking for the married mom of two boys: “This is really important for Guy. It is a massive commitment. We have one night with one show to move people and help change the world. The cause is a really urgent one.” Cirque will close all seven of its resident shows in Las Vegas that evening, and Prince Albert of Monaco is the night’s event chairman.

Before another round of rehearsals began, I talked at length with her about the extraordinary endeavor. She told me: “One Drop has been around since 2007 and done well, has had a face all over the world on many continents. However, Guy wanted to really increase the ripple effect by having one centralized, concerted event that brought awareness and funds to the cause, but also was linked to its mission with artistic expression.

Antonio Esfandiari Wins Big One for One Drop

Guy Laliberte and Antonio Esfandiari during the Big One for One Drop at the Rio on Tuesday, July 3, 2012. Launch slideshow »

“It may be one time, but it brings those key elements together. It really allows Cirque du Soleil to do what we do best and to entertain people and to move people and to transport people, but to do it in a way with a certain resonance that’s really linked to this important message.”

Robin Leach: It seems almost a shame to go to all this work, rehearse for three months, plan for six months and have it all evaporate in one night.

Krista Monson: I am laughing with you as we sweat our days away, but the Olympics is similar. Years of training and one race! There are many, many events in the world that have that one night, that one moment, that one inaugural pulse associated with them.

It is completely different than a Cirque show designed to remain open for years and years. This is a major contrast. It’s going to be an amazing wow, but then go up in smoke in an hour and a half. However, in that moment, it creates an adrenaline rush and a real feeling of we must be there, we must participate. It has an urgency to it. … It is crazy, but we are going to do it, and the ripple effect will go on way beyond the night.

We started planning the concept back in August. We started some rehearsals in December, then as of January, it has really taken shape. It will be 2 1/2 months of very intense rehearsals with 230 artists. A majority of them perform daily at one of our seven Las Vegas shows. There also are artists coming from other Cirque shows as guest artists, but the majority are performing every single night. Not only are they keeping on the schedule of 476 shows a year, but they also are rehearsing for this on a volunteer basis during the day.

R.L.: I am assuming that you are doing it at “O” theater because of its pool and because the show will be all about water?

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Krista Monson of Cirque du Soleil.

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Mayor Carolyn Goodman at the 11th Annual Run Away With Cirque du Soleil at Springs Preserve on Saturday, March 24, 2012.

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The 11th Annual Run Away With Cirque du Soleil at Springs Preserve on Saturday, March 24, 2012.

K.M.: I am very, very sensitive to it when I approached the concept. Yes, you are right. There is that dip in the pool. The water is visible there, but on the other hand, it is a good challenge for us because this is a show about the urgency of the lack of freshwater, and this show has been done on a pool with 1.5 million gallons of freshwater for entertainment purposes. There is a certain obviousness with it, but there also is a great challenge in how we are going to approach the content.

R.L.: Will the tickets for this once-in-a-lifetime event be more expensive than a regular Cirque show?

K.M.: The revenue goes directly to the cause, so they are much more expensive. The majority of tickets will be $1,500 each. Some are less expensive, but we are endeavoring to sell them in packages not only because this is World Water Day, but also before the show, there are galas, and after the show, there are parties, as well. They are being structured by not only what people can give, but also what their interests are and what type of music they like. You have to look at it as a whole evening that starts at 6 p.m. and runs to midnight, with the show at 8:30 p.m.

It’s actually going to be an entire week with our “Run Away With Cirque du Soleil.” We have our 5K run, and we are trying to paint The Strip blue, to really make a splash -- another intentional pun -- and create that awareness with a series of events surrounding March 22.

R.L.: With 237 performers onstage, just how many people will it take backstage?

K.M.: The running crew that night will be about 60, but the creation team will number another 75, including the costume designers, the makeup and hair designers, the props designers, the equipment designers. All volunteers; they work at our shows.

R.L.: What can you reveal about the show so it doesn’t sound like “O” in any shape, manner or form.

K.M.: A few things. We will celebrate the Earth as an artistic creation in its strength, vitality and fragility and to highlight water as the essence of life in the Earth’s precious ecosystem. That is where it all starts. We really researched and pondered how we can link with that story and tell that message in “O” theater without relying on all of the “O” tricks but with images. We have partnered with a Montreal video factory who has worked on previous Cirque shows and Celine Dion’s show here. We are transforming the “O” theater with the use of video and projection.

It won’t come across as a documentary, but the water message is very real. We will balance being really honest about the beauty of Earth, but also the danger it is in. There are so many things on the planet that are stunning, and we take them for granted, but what is happening is dangerous to them and to us. I love that idea of that dichotomy of the beauty of danger. This is a transformative entertaining experience with highs and lows and different emotional levels.

We have 550 artists in Las Vegas, and they perform every night. I used to be the casting director for six years before I accepted this challenge. I was lucky in understanding not only what those artists can do on a daily basis at each of their shows, but also knowing all of them come from a huge array of talents. We have really tapped -- another pun! -- into those unshown talents. They are excited about performing and doing things they haven’t done before or don’t do normally. They are excited -- it fills their blood every night.

As we talked, Krista finally revealed some secrets: There will be at least one scene with all 237 performers onstage, and another with just one. She told me: “I love the idea of go big or go home, but I also like the idea of less is more. If it’s best one person makes the statement, then I use only one. If it takes 100 to say it, then we will use 100.

“This concept is different than any other Cirque show. … We are looking at a large group of people who have a huge array of talents. We are able to paint this picture by gracing the stage with different talents. For example, Danny Elfman is composing a string quartet, but he is not doing the composition for the whole show -- just one magical moment that will be unbelievable and fitting. In other moments, we have other composers to present different artists, mediums, choreographers, contributors and really hone in to allow those moments to flourish without them being involved as the whole show.

“The show will have fun, drama, danger and a message. Guy was very clear to say to his team -- everybody who lives here in Las Vegas -- ‘create this show to make the world aware of the dangers of water disappearing. I am going to trust this team to do it.’ For the first time in many years, he said he’d trust us to make that happen. That type of trust is an honor, but it also is scary because to interpret such a global message is quite a responsibility that I carry as the director and constructor -- and we carry as a team.

“I have a pretty good feeling about it now. There is a strong momentum; it is shaping beautifully. We have a lot of work to do, but I also believe that if one is creating an amazing impact, it requires an amazing amount of risk. I am trying to balance making that risk with feasibility and making it absolutely beautiful and ready. With the team we have in place, I am really confident. We are riding a tight rope between being dangerous and the need to deliver something truly unique and exciting. I am really confident we will.”

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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