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Finally, something to lift our spirits!!! ... This interview will make you jump for joy!!
Exclusive: Michael Jackson Cirque shows set; tickets on sale Nov. 3By Robin Leach
Robin Leach: Now comes Michael Jackson -- two Michael Jackson shows. The first show is the one coming here to Mandalay Bay for a little while before going out on tour. The second show will be the residency show. Have you decided what hotel theater will become its home?
Daniel Lamarre: We’re still struggling with that final decision. We are still talking with people at MGM. I think the arena show will be a good test for us, and it certainly will have an impact on the final decision for MGM.
DL: The first show opens Dec. 15, 2011. The second show will be at the beginning of 2013. The first arena show will globally tour in North America for two years and then as it leaves to go onto Europe and the rest of the world, we will open the permanent show here in a theater yet to be designated.
RL: How different will that show be to the arena touring show?
DL: The arena touring show is as close as you can get to a rock concert. Our audiences will have the feeling that Michael Jackson is alive. The permanent show will be much more theatrical. We are looking right now at a lot of new technology that we want to bring into Vegas for the first time.
RL: How far along in the development of both shows are you at this moment?
DL: For the arena show, we are done. The concept exists. It is approved by all parties. We will start rehearsing in Montreal this December, so we are really there already for the arena show. For the permanent show, we’re still exploring the new technologies that we would like to bring to Vegas. The preliminary concept exists for the theatrical show, but depending on how far we can go with new technologies, that will influence the final concept of the second show.
RL: Now when we talked about that several months ago, I sensed it would be 3D on steroids, where the audience gets inside as the show wraps all around outside them?
DL: Yes, that’s right. We really want to use the newest, latest of breakthrough technologies that have never been seen before or used theatrically before. There are a lot of conversations going on with a lot of different companies to see who can deliver to us the advanced technology that we’re looking for.
RL: Now that the concert show is 100 percent concept completed, is it with a Michael Jackson or without?
DL: Michael Jackson will be there on video, and then again we will bring in technologies that will make it seem that Michael is with us.
RL: But no lookalikes or soundalikes?
DL: People want to see the real Michael, and the real Michael will be very, very present on the unique video. His estate administrators have completely accepted the concept of the show, which is a great relief for us. Not only are we happy they have accepted it, but we’re happy they’re enthusiastic about the concept of the show. It will be a 90-minute show with all of his big hits, over 20 of the bestselling songs. The show will have about 72 artists: dancers, musicians and acrobats.
RL: Anything in this first show that Michael was developing for his London This Is It concerts?
DL: We have some video that was for the London show that will be integrated into the new show.
RL: What will we be amazed by most?
DL: I think the challenge here is to give the feeling to people that Michael is on that stage. We will do everything we can in terms of video and technologies to bring his presence to life.
RL: Did you learn anything from presenting Viva Elvis to tackle the Michael Jackson shows?
DL: If you take Love or Elvis, the challenge is always to be representative of that era. Obviously, Michael is from a different era than Elvis, and we have to make sure that if Michael were onstage, that’s what he would deliver. It will be him as he would be today.
RL: When do tickets go on sale?
This is going to be just like a real rock and roll tour. Dozens of trucks -- well over 30 -- with staging and equipment will arrive in Las Vegas exactly as it will be when we go off around the world. Two years touring in North America and then another two years of global capitals. A monumental four-year world tour! It’s a huge challenge -- the largest we have ever undertaken, but we’re very excited about it.
RL: I always have to ask the money questions. What will be the cost of both shows?
DL: We’re talking close to $100 million for the two shows -- that’s just for the production. Then the cost of the theaters for both shows will add another $100 million to $150 million.
Daniel invited me to Montreal headquarters to watch rehearsals of the arena show. The present timetable calls for preliminary rehearsals beginning in December and then full rehearsals next summer before the company moves here in early fall.
Since we were sitting together in the Mystere Theater at Treasure Island after watching the 8,000th performance, I asked him why the show seemed the best it’s ever been.
DL: It’s amazing, I could feel the emotion because I met the artists before the show. I know how emotional they were about this 8,000 representation, and I’ve seen the reaction of the public tonight. Standing ovations throughout. What’s amazing to me is that the magic still works. The artists are still excited every performance.
RL: There have been several updates over the years to Mystere. Is that how you ensure that each night looks better than ever before?
DL: That’s the only way. We have an artistic team working here, and every day they train, they try to make their show evolve, and that’s why after 17 years, the show is still relevant.
RL: Phil Ruffin told me a while ago that he’s given the show another five years’ extension here at T.I. Is that your understanding?
DL: That was the first thing that Phil told me when he bought the property from MGM. He said, “Daniel, don’t change anything. I love this show.” We renewed right away for an additional five years. It’s just amazing the occupancy level even in a struggling market. This show is still doing very well. Our house was full, and we still have standing ovations.
RL: Do you think it’s because it was the very first Cirque show and everything that came after was really a child to the parent?
DL: I think that’s what it is. I have people coming to me saying, “Daniel, this is the original.” There is a real extraordinary emotional link between the public, Cirque du Soleil and Mystere. To them, Mystere is the classic that will be around forever.”
Mystere remains in place as the timetable moves forward now for the premieres of the two Jackson shows. It is not a changing of the guard. This is where the proud parent welcomes the new arrivals and makes history all over again.
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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