The Wynn Las Vegas
Cirque du Soleil has reinvented the once-dilapidated Las Vegas Strip dramatically over the past decade and a half—and perhaps the chief architect of this monumental change from processed cheese spread to imported brie is Franco Dragone. For many years, this guy was a major creative force behind the Cirque’s astounding rise to international success and now he is celebrated with even more reverence for creating the gorgeously evocative Le Reve, the celebrated permanent resident at the sumptuous Wynn Las Vegas since 2005.
Credited with “founding the artistic soul” of Cirque after being recruited by the fledgling Montreal-based troupe in 1985, Dragone began his long tenure with the company working on the aptly named Le Cirque Reinvente. Over the next 15 years, he was almost singlehandedly responsible for creating the Cirque’s amazingly successful touring shows Nouvelle Experience, Saltimbanco, Alegria, Quidam, and La Nouba.
Over the ensuing years, millions of patrons worldwide have entered the brilliant mind of Dragone as brought to life in those unearthly touring shows, but surely nothing will secure him a place in the history of the performing arts more than his work in Vegas. Initially the genius behind Mystere, the company’s first permanent attraction which opened at Treasure Island in 1993, and then with the mesmeric “O” at the Bellagio, opening that groundbreaking former Steve Wynn hotel in 1998, both permanent Dragone productions continue to play on to packed houses to this day.
Still, Dragone longed to create without any limitations and, in 2000, he did the unthinkable, leaving Cirque du Soleil to strike out on his own. Six years later, he became a far more important figure in the artistic evolution of Sin City by inventing two of the grandest presentations to date to energize the Strip: Celine Dion’s pre-Bette Midler turn at Caesars Palace, a show that was deemed so spectacular it made its star look more like a Pomona housewife in comparison than before, and Le Reve, his haunting “small collection of imperfect dreams.”
It wasn’t long after Dragone split from the Cirque that unstoppably prolific hotelier Steve Wynn approached him to create a show to become the flagship for his phenomenal new mega-resort. Housed in a majestic auditorium-sized theatre built at the Wynn entirely for the show, the otherworldly Le Reve (French for “The Dream”) revolves around a huge 68½-foot pool of water where audience members join the consciousness of a somnambulant young woman still swooning in her sleep from a stroll home on the arm of her handsome hot date. Her sensuous—and sometimes scary—dreamstate defies the bounds of conventional reality for a breakneck 90 minutes of aerial and aquatic splendor never before seen on any stage.
The cost of creating Le Reve and building its own 2,087-seat theatre with no seat farther than 42 feet from the playing space has stealthily not been disclosed, but comparable shows housed permanently on the Strip when it debuted in 2005 averaged around $30 to $40 million. Since this is theatre-in-the-round and no wing or storage space is available offstage to hold elaborate movable set pieces, designer Claude Santerre’s incredibly mammoth hydraulic-controlled pieces either rise from the water or are flown in from above, as are many of the performers themselves.
As live white birds flutter above our heads and the score by longtime Dragone collaborator Benoit Jutras (Mystere, “O,” Quidam) contributes a mixture of a live band and vocals with eerie recorded folk music from Serbia, a series of lifts emerge from below to create a stage when needed, rising and dipping, breaking apart and, for the show’s extraordinary final tableaux, turning into a fountain to rival Bethesda. The almost hallucinatory newly redesigned lighting effects by Tony-dripping Broadway legends Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer shimmer off the water’s surface as the jaw-dropping special effects simulate rain, snow and fire.
One of the most memorable scenes happens in a raging blizzard as our sleepwalking protagonist, who appears to be looking for something or someone familiar to make the journey more grounded, is instead met with ominous devils and scary-kiddie figures right out of a Tim Burton movie. In defense of the more horrific and even nightmarish aspects of his visualized dream of “compromised purity,” Dragone has been is quoted as saying the definitive theme of Le Reve is “how men can be great and little, can do beautiful, great things like walk on the moon, and at the same time do bad, ugly things like war.”
As much as I have adored repeated viewings of Dragone’s “O” over the past decade since I attended its indelible opening night, from the first time I experienced the sheer wonder of Le Reve, I couldn’t help feeling it makes its predecessor look a tad anemic. Maybe it was seeing those damnably tired sailor clowns in their stained Navy whites plug the same old holes on their sinking house for the umpteenth time last time I attended the show that made me want to run for the nearest exit, but Dragone’s newer incarnation of water-based entertainment seems far more adventurous a journey in comparison.
I would heartily suggest treating yourself and your guests to a wonderful new service available in keeping with the luxurious elegance and lifestyle evoked in every corner of the Wynn: Le Reve’s own cushy VIP Indulgence Package. Featuring a well-placed row of comfortable velvet-covered lounge seating surrounding the entire stage, patrons willing to give up a few more buckaroos for the experience can be served a chilled bottle of Perrier Jouet and a bowl of chocolate-dipped strawberries by a lovely and most attentive young server as they watch the show not only from the stage but from their own private video monitors placed right before them. Shooting the action first in the bowels of the theatre as the cast and dressers and technicians prepare to go onstage, the monitors follow the performers as they take the elevators to the overhead area to strap in for Le Reve’s first human aerial assault from above.
The cameras then lead the champagne-swilling VIPs to experience another spectacular and totally unique view underwater, where the performers hook up with 16 scuba divers to utilize air stations and move equipment into place for the next wonder to come. Okay, so the VIP Indulgence Package might cost a few dollars more, but the experience will be one you’ll never forget and anyway, it’s Vegas! Besides, the difference in price is not all that unequal to the cost of the nice cold bottle of Perrier Jouet itself, so the VIP deal may even be considered somewhat of a bargain.
There’s an almost palpable reverence and respect for the water obvious in the work of Le Reve’s unique assemblage of gratefully scantily clad performers, a collective appreciation amongst the cast for its power and a celebration of its inherent beauty. With brilliantly colorful and gorgeously sensual costuming designed by Claude Renard able to withstand both acrobatic stretching and emersion into water—but still demanding replacement every two weeks due to the rigors of the show—the 86 onstage athletes, gymnasts, Olympic champions, high-divers and world-class swimmers are of course the heart of Le Reve, an ensemble hand chosen from some of the most amazing artists performing all over the world. Add in impressive newer additions to the show, including thrilling tango, paso doble and the highlighting Piece Montee number choreographed by Dancing with The Star’s own Maksim Chmerkovskiy, and Le Reve glows on.
Tickets for Le Reve are available at the Wynn Las Vegas box office, online at www.wynnlasvegas.com, or by phone at (702) 770-WYNN.