‘Ka’ is back at the MGM Grand on the Strip

The final battle carried new meaning, for a show that spent 19 months returning to the stage.

“Ka” bounced back Wednesday night at the MGM Grand. Cirque du Soleil’s most lavish production, with an investment of $ 165 million and 300 cast members. The production checks Cirque’s final box among shows returning to the Strip after the company’s endlessly long COVID-forced break.

Importantly, some 1,250 Circus employees have returned to work in Las Vegas.

Cirque du Soleil Senior Vice President of Cirque du Soleil Eric Grilly took over at the company about four months before Universal Entertainment closed in March 2020. He has now seen all five Cirque shows return, with “Mystere” at Treasure Island, “O” at Bellagio, “MJ One” at Mandalay Bay and “Love” at the Mirage, in that order, preceding “Ka” on stage.

The MGM Grand Show, which opened in February 2005, took place because the grand production presented challenges on a large scale. The show was originally scheduled to reopen in October, then return over Thanksgiving weekend.

“It’s a huge theater, with a very large cast and a very large technical team needed to make it work,” Grilly said ahead of Wednesday’s relaunch. “We added a few extra weeks of rehearsal, time to take it into account… We had to replace a certain number of technicians, given the schedule of the show, as well as many artists. But even with the integration of so many people, you’re going to see a great show.

As has been evident in all of Cirque’s feedback, the company has spent the shutdown remaining brutal. The show delighted the full house in the 1,950-seat theater. The show rendered signature elements such as the Wheel of Death, stage attacks from archers and lancers, goofy clown characters from the jacks, and martial artists from the Imperial Guard.

The show’s two stage decks are back in the show, including its Sand Cliff Deck, which rotates 360 degrees and tilts toward the crowd to allow video projection. By the time the 80 ‘rod actuators’ start to come out of the bridge for performers to climb and fall when the stage is vertical, you know the Circus has returned to its shape.

“There are a handful of new artists that have been added to the show, but no significant changes have been made,” said Grilly, and mentioned some elements of the show that were improved just as he entered into his administrative role. “The show has had a bit of a refresh in 2019. It’s in great shape.” The ovation from the packed house served as an exclamation point for “Ka”.

Box office acrobatics

As has been the case with the Circus since the reopening of “Mystere” on June 28 and “O” on July 1, the cast and crew must be vaccinated and non-verbal performers are in face coverings. Theater staff wave “Masks Up” signs as easily as performers wave their crossbows, as members of the public are required to wear face masks when they are not “actively” eating or drinking.

The result, not only for Cirque but for several production shows, was a drop in attendance after the initial burst of the reopening of “Mystere” and “O”, when these shows sold out almost every performance in. July and August.

Producers said masking issues were one of the main reasons for the drop in numbers, in some cases as high as 40% since the return of indoor mask mandates in late July.

Apparently, Cirque’s midweek numbers outside of “Mystere” and “O” had dropped, and “Love” slipped through all nights. But Grilly said the slide could be attributed to the initial rush of fans arriving to satisfy pent-up demand, with the pendulum turning as this community flipped the shows they wanted to see.

“It was amazing to be almost 100 percent sold out for ‘O’ and ‘Mystere’ all summer long, and then we saw the traditional seasonal drop that we saw just around the feast of the Work, ”Grilly said. “We had a lot more families here than in the past, and we can see a decrease as they have returned home to put their children back to school. “

Grilly says business has rebounded, like a circus acrobat in an elastic harness.

“We’re having a fantastic November in all shows,” Grilly said. “Each emission will be equal to or greater than pre-pandemic levels.”

What is the next

“Zumanity” was the Cirque show that did not survive the pandemic, closed permanently in November 2020. The Cirque has since developed a new show and is refreshing the old Zumanity Theater. Aside from a limited engagement from ventriloquist ace Terry Fator and a one-off show from the “Bianca del Rio” drag show, the venue is latent.

The show will focus on a New York theme. It will likely open in the second quarter, or spring, 2022.

“We are still in the process of finalizing plans with our partners at MGM Resorts for this offering,” said Grilly. “We haven’t chosen a name yet, but we’re narrowing it down. “

The production will be different from the extravagances that have been a hallmark of Cirque since the opening of “Mystere” in 1993. The theater, while magnificent in the tradition of Circus on the Strip, has long been in need of a cure. youth.

“We’re going to be presenting things that you’ve never seen in a Circus show before,” said Grilly. “The theater is 19 years old, isn’t it? So obviously it needs to be updated. There have been a lot of technological advancements in terms of sound, lighting, projection mapping that we will be able to take advantage of and have used in our other shows.

“And then it’s going to be a very different kind of experience, both in terms of seating privacy and food and drink. That would give Cirque six shows on the Strip, not counting acquisition partnerships such as Blue Man Group and “America’s Got Talent: Live” (via The Works Entertainment), both in Luxor.

The business that seemed almost complete in the spring of 2020 has expertly bounced back.

Visiting time

Circus was supported outside of Vegas, with the return of the standout production “Alegria” to Houston, and the long-delayed Cirque-Disney partnership “Drawn To Life” opened at Disney World in Orlando. Reviews of this creative collaboration have been positive. Even longtime circus officials cried when it premiered.

Disney characters are woven into a series of traditional Circus acts, sketched out as a silhouette. The show pays homage to the elegant animation of Disney and the dazzling acrobatics of the Circus.

The Circus does most of its business in Vegas and the Strip is its artistic headquarters, but the company remains an international entity and is bringing back several of the 44 touring shows toppled by COVID. At the top of all this activity is the investment of its new ownership group, led by Capital Catalyst Group, a strong investment firm in Toronto.

“Our touring division has finally reopened, so a very important part of our business is now back up and running with the opening of Algeria last week, in fact the day before the opening of ‘Drawn to Life'”, Grilly said. “And then six more tours will be rolled out over the next few months, which is a big enough development for us to get our business back on track.”

John Katsilometes column is published daily in section A. His “PodKats! Podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at [email protected] To follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @ JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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