Thursday, March 19, 2015 | 11:59 p.m.
Just 24 hours remain now until the curtain goes up on the third-annual Cirque du Soleil “One Night for One Drop” spectacular featuring the largest cast of any Cirque show anywhere in the world.
It’s a mind-blowing, phenomenal production that will have Friday night’s audience in “The Beatles’ Love” Theater at the Mirage on the edge of their seats and giving standing ovations and wild applause.
All 110 performers agree that director and creator Mukhtar Omar Sharif Mukhtar is confident that all will go well Friday night even though there’s only one full dress rehearsal tonight, and Academy Award- and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter John Legend won’t rehearse his two numbers until four hours before the show.
Curiously, there’s a quiet calm, but this isn’t the one that normally comes before the storm. It’s part of the spiritual, heavenly and angelic mood that Mukhtar has set amid the chaos of the yearlong volunteer effort that culminates in the one-off production.
“He’s totally calm, very focused, with a clear vision of what’s to be achieved. There’s no panic or fear about it being perfect,” one Cirque executive sitting with me said.
Mukhtar told me at Wednesday’s final staging of the show segments: “It’s sweat and tears, but no blood. If I’m calm, then the cast is calm. Preparation is ten-tenths of the process. I’m sleeping well even with the rigors of the show and my two new babies.
“Everybody taking part knows we have no time to deal with any trial and error. The biggest problem has been making sure we got all the performers together for rehearsals because of their different work schedules.”
The “Love” Theater will have been closed for eight days to permit the staging, lift technicalities, rehearsals and show. All eight Cirque shows are dark on Friday night. It’s incredible to think that a year of work by volunteer performers, scenic builders, costumers and crew ends with the oh-so-good, one-and-once-only 1 hour and 35-minute show.
However, 10 cameras will film “One Night” for potential future broadcast. Cirque officials gave Vegas DeLuxe an exclusive sneak preview of the 17-act show. Our thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue for his stunning photo galleries from Wednesday and tonight.
Only a few tickets remain on sale now to fill all 2,000 seats in the “Love” Theater.
Cirque founder Guy Laliberte, who flies in today, will only see it for the first time on Friday night at the gala fundraising event. He, too, will be struck at how the theater has changed from the look of “Love.”
Everything is new, different and altered in an amazing way. The four quadrants of The Beatles show have literally vanished, and you have no idea you’re sitting in the traditional “Love” Theater.
The stage was repainted white on Monday to reflect the different effects and the halo of near psychedelic colors. It will be repainted back to black over the weekend for “Love” to resume on Monday.
The creators have used a giant television with large-screen projections of video effects with the silver-clad dancers appearing to move in unison with a spinning aerialist through actual rain.
Another dance sequence in the “water” features the daughter of two Cirque show artists flying through the air as the water splashes upward. That screen projection is so lifelike that several dancers wind up balanced atop towers of books with TV-set helmets to keep dry.
Not all 110 stage performers are Cirque artists. Mukhtar has recruited the Quixote multimedia performance arts group from Kansas City and an extraordinary team of Japanese rhythmic gymnasts from Hanazono University.
I watched with my jaws wide open as they tumbled, then flew across the stage mat. They formed an instantaneous pyramid leaving one member of the troupe to somersault over the other five athletes.
But it’s the trampoline to teeter board to trampoline act that is beyond sensational. Paul Cameron, who is the Canadian coach at Cirque’s “Michael Jackson One” in Mandalay Bay, created an all-new act for his Cirque artists from “Mystere” at Treasure Island and “One.”
They propelled themselves so high, one was able to turn into a high-flying human corkscrew with a spinning quadruple somersault. It’s more than breath-taking; you simply stop breathing!
Paul and Mukhtar took previously unheard Las Vegas music from the Cirque touring show “Kurios” for the athletes to keep time. It may well be one of the two main high-points of Friday’s theatrical masterpiece.
Even in the staging rehearsal, dozens of other Cirque artists waiting their turn to perform cheered and applauded at the fast and furious feats. However, it’s the new aerial act featuring British twins Kevin and Andrew Atherton from “Zarkana” at Aria that could stop the show. They will defy gravity performing together hanging on one strap 50 feet in the air.
In addition to the Japanese gymnasts and the Quixote multimedia team, Mukhtar brought in cellist Philip Sheppard from London and John, who will perform at his piano. John will sing for the second act “Mother’s Love” with a solo dancer, and in “Celebration,” which ends the production before the all-cast finale. Dancers from other companies auditioned with Cirque dancers to perform in the show.
Two other dance routines are absolutely fascinating: the staccato slo-mo “body popping” dancers and those that dance backward and on treadmills. Totally unique and different.
Another act that will entertain is the “helicopter” ring that flies in over a cushion of male dancers wrapped in one massive piece of red fabric for the four aerial acrobats to fall on, one at a time, to the music of the emotionally charged French song “Ne Me Quitte Pas (Don’t Leave Me),” the same song Celine Dion performed in her most recent headliner show in the Colosseum at Caesars Palace.
The show’s music ranges from the heavenly to the hellishly powerful blasts that won’t let anybody drift off. The entire show also is punctuated with the wraparound, near cinemascope movie screens that show brilliant close-up videos of the performers and an important message: “Value the people who sacrifice something for you because maybe that something was their everything.”
I have only one worry: Will John be able to concentrate on his piano and song performances as the true magic of Cirque envelops him onstage, above him in the rafters and as the other cast members run down the theater’s stairs? He, like Guy, will only see the show fully for the first time at his actual performance.
Bravo to all involved both onstage and offstage. This is a major and incredible genius achievement. We’ll have coverage of the blue carpet gala here on Sunday, so be sure to check back for the star-studded party stories and photo galleries.
The first two “One Night for One Drop” shows at “O” Theater in Bellagio in 2013 followed by “Michael Jackson One” Theater in Mandalay Bay in 2014 raised $11.3 million for the world water charity.
This third production is so awesome and manages to outshine the first two already before its actual night that Cirque has given the go ahead for “One Night for One Drop” No. 4 next March 18.
Mukhtar tells me, though, that it’s time for a new director to take the helm. “I’ve given this as much as I possibly can,” he said.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.