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Cirque will hold its cards, for now, with ‘Mad Apple’

Updated May 27, 2022 - 7:34 pm

Cirque du Soleil has opened “Mad Apple” at New York-New York. Enjoy it. The company is not planning a new production on the Strip anytime soon.

The Strip’s six-pack of original Cirque productions is now “Mystere,” “O,” “Ka,” “Michael Jackson One,” “Love,” and now “Mad Apple.” Blue Man Group, a Cirque acquisition, continues to perform at Luxor. The company is also partners in “America’s Got Talent Live!” at Luxor.

Cirque Executive Vice Chairman Daniel Lamarre surveys the Strip and is fine with that collection. For now, at least.

“Right now, all of our shows are doing great,” Lamarre said at the red (or, pink) carpet walk before Thursday’s “Mad Apple” premiere. “As long as it’s going how it is now, there is no need for an extra show in Las Vegas. But we’ve always got ideas.”

By design, “Mad Apple” is the smallest-scale residency show that Cirque has ever presented on the Strip. There is no lake-sized stage (as in “O”), 50-foot-tall rotating stage (as in “Ka”), or troupe of zombies performing over the crowd on aerial harnesses (as in “MJ One”). The company has no interest in wagering $62 million on an original production, as it did in “R.U.N” at Luxor, only to pack up after 4½ months.

But new shows can remedy old failures. So can fiscal recalculation. “Mad Apple” is reportedly about a $7 million production. The show it replaced, “Zumanity,” was originally a $66 million investment, or $20 million if you don’t count what was spent on design and construction of the beautiful theater “Mad Apple” has inherited.

Through the maze of creation and calibration, Lamarre remains a Cirque visionary. He reviews new business opportunities for Cirque, with Stéphane Lefebvre (Lamarre’s chosen successor) promoted as the company’s CEO and president in December. Cirque President Eric Grilly is the company’s highest-ranking official in Las Vegas.

Through the changes in the company’s management roster, Lamarre says the days of grand designs are not totally over for Cirque. “Mad Apple” hits the spot for a themed show at New York-New York, but the company remains committed to developing spectacles for Las Vegas.

“I think we’ll have both types of shows,” Lamarre said, referring to the smaller and larger concepts. “Some shows work in markets like Hawaii, Miami, and those destinations. Our big Cirque shows work in huge markets, New York, London, Tokyo. There are two types of shows and two types of markets. The only city that can afford them all is Las Vegas.”

Cirque has inherited a pair of significant partnerships over the years, outside of their long-running business arrangement with MGM Resorts International.

Phil Ruffin bought Treasure Island, home of “Mystere,” in 2009. That show, of course, continues to run to strong response. And MGM is in the process of selling The Mirage to Hard Rock International, where The Beatles “Love” has performed since 2006. The sale should be closed the second half of this year.

“Love” has been extended to perform at The Mirage through 2023. The existing contract between Cirque and Hard Rock would need to be extended for “Love” to continue to run on the Strip. Hard Rock’s owners are planning to take down the hotel’s famous volcano and build a guitar-shaped tower, which (duh) would ideally match the Beatles’ branding and imagery. But “Love” is reportedly selling only between 30 and 40 percent of capacity in its pandemic reopening. Those numbers are a concern no matter how groovy the show is.

These are all decisions to be made over the extended future of Cirque on the Strip. Cirque has shown it can be flexible, on and off the stage.

“MGM will remain our partner of choice, for sure,” Lamarre said. “MGM opened the door for Phil Ruffin, and now has opened the door (at) Hard Rock, so now we have two new partners. This has all been through our partnership with MGM … And we now we have the luxury of looking at new business. We are always looking forward.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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