Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Las Vegas, Round 5

We went to Vegas this last weekend with Doroula. It was my nameday, and it all started about 4 months ago when I decided to book some tickets to come and watch Celine Dion at Ceasar's Palace, where she has been performing since 2003. Later on, during these last Christmas, I decided to book another show to go the day before: The infamous Circue du Soleil's "O".

As soon as we got there on Saturday afternoon (after the 4 hour drive from LA), we headed straight to tickets2nite, which along with tix4tonight offer (in the spirits of similar Broadway techniques) 50% discounted tickets for various Las Vegas shows. Tickets2nite had only 3 major shows (the majority of the stuff is magicians and just normal shows, not the big production ones): Mamma Mia, Celine Dion and "O". Since we had tickets for the last two shows, we decided to go to the 4pm show of the Broadway hit Mamma Mia. We got the tickets at exactly half the price, we paid $40 each instead of $75+tax. The seats of course were near the back but it didn't matter that much. Stavros and Pgal had seen this show in their last visit in Vegas last October and even Stavros liked it (which disliked a lot the Phantom).

So how was Mamma Mia in Vegas? Well, Broadway shows do not have a good history in Vegas. Hairspray and AvenueQ only played for less than one year before they got canceled. The Phantom of the Opera also opened recently last summer in a custom-built $40M theater at the Venetian, and other than that only Mamma Mia holds steady since it is the longest running Broadway show on Vegas with over 1,000 shows. In fact it was pretty good, becoming my 5th Broadway show that I happen to watch (after the Phantom, The Producers, Beauty and the Beast, and the Lion King). I thoroughly enjoyed the first half with great songs and great acts and jokes ("blow, don't suck!"). The second half was just OK, but still I thought it was more fun than the Producers. The story also is kind of more interesting since it takes place on a greek island with a girl that is getting married but doesn't know who her real father is since her mother went with 3 different guys around the same time and she doesn't know with who she got pregnant with! So she invited secretly all 3 of them to try and figure out who is it. The story is much like a old greek movie with everyone getting married at the end.

The show ended around 8:30pm, and we headed stright to Bellagio to watch "O". The fountains are always most beautiful there:

Exactly opposite of the Bellagio is another excellent hotel, Paris (with a small Eiffel tower!):

So what about "O"? Well, there is a little history behind it. When Bellagio opened in the center of Las Vegas in 1998, it was (and still is) the best, most expensive and most luxurious hotel in Vegas (or anywhere in the US as far as I am concerned). Steve Wynn, the billionaire that funded it, wanted the best of the best shows to come to his hotel. He wanted a show that would be a reason for someone to come across the globe all the way to his hotel and watch it. So he invited Dragone, an artist that has worked with Circue du Soleil and had produced some great shows. They built a special theater and they put together one of the best shows on the planet.

What is so special about "O"? Well, it sounds like the french eau, which means water. The whole stage is filled with water, and it has an enormous depth and dimensions. Dragone makes sure there are more stuff going on than the brain can process at a time. Actors, swimmers, gymnasts, acrobats, bicyclists and many more are performing on the water, under the water, or high above the water. "O" is a production that breaks all the barriers of conventional theater or circus. It was my only show that instead of sitting back against the seat I was actually bending forward to try and grasp as much as possible. It is a production far more different and complicated than anything I have ever seen or will I ever see ever gain. I can only compare with one more show: the Olympics 2004 opening ceremony, where we had a flat surface filled with water and various things flying over it. But this was done in 2004, and Dragone did "O" in 1998! The stage was also huge with great depth and height. At some point I tried to get outside the dreamy show and realize what was I seeing: on top of a stage full of water (that drained and refilled in a matter of 20 seconds or so!) there was hanging a flying ship, on top of which there were a bunch of acrobats jumping from one side to the other. At the end of the act all of them just dove into the water, and 20 seconds later a clown was running along the now-dry stage!

The most memorable picture of the show however was the very beginning, which was the most original and scary experience I had. There was a red curtain that in other shows usually either lifts up or opens sideways and then the show starts. In "O", the two halfs of the curtain start to drop, and about midway through their fall a magical force starts to pull them back towards the back of the stage... the shape and motion of the curtains flying back and disappearing like that was just... spooky and amazing. It simply cannot be described, especially since behind it a huge pool of water appeared...

To be continued...

The Bellagio lobby ceiling: