On March 14, 2020, entertainment behemoth Cirque du Soleil shuttered its seven Vegas production shows due to COVID-19.
More than 15 months later, the company will finally turn the lights back on.
With state plans allowing entertainment venues to operate at 100 percent capacity starting June 1, Cirque will revive its pioneering shows "Mystere" and "O," along with its affiliate show "Blue Man Group." All three will be open by the big July 4 holiday weekend.
Many have said the return of Cirque on the Strip would signal the return of the Strip entertainment. But it’s also a huge comeback for Cirque itself, the company having come out of last year’s bankruptcy.
Daniel Lamarre is the CEO and president of Cirque du Soleil. He recalled March 14, 2020, as a "very sad day."
The company went from putting on 44 shows across the globe to zero revenue almost overnight.
The pandemic pushed the company into bankruptcy.
“The company was very, very healthy, but you cannot sustain close to 5,000 employees without any revenue. That is why we had to protect ourselves from our creditors,” Lamarre said.
But from that came new investors who helped the company survive.
“That shows a lot about the strength of the brand of Cirque du Soleil because, despite zero revenue for more than a year, people were willing to spend money to keep us alive,” he said.
Lamarre said one of the main reasons investors wanted to help was because of the relationship Cirque has with Las Vegas casino giants MGM Resorts International and Treasure Island.
The financial crisis and bankruptcy have moved the company in a new direction, Lamarre said.
“What we’ve learned from that crisis is first and foremost moving forward we want to look at how we can develop content in the digital world in order to have a better balance between live shows and digital content,” he said.
Lamarre also said they would be looking to grow the company in a more orderly fashion and create new shows at a slower pace.
One Las Vegas show that permanently closed during the pandemic was "Zumanity" at New York-New York. Lamarre said they were in talks with the property to bring new content to the resort's theater even before the pandemic started.
“As we speak, we’re still hoping to bring a new show in that theater,” he said.
The shows that are returning first, "Mystere" and "O," were chosen because they are the icons of Cirque's brand, Lamarre said.
Rehearsals for the shows will start next week and bring back 300 employees.
“For the public, they are expecting the quality of the show to be at the same level, and in order to ensure that, we need our people to really work hard in rehearsing and be ready for the opening,” he said.
"Love" is expected to be back in July. "Michael Jackson One" and "Ka" are expected back in September and October, respectively. Lamarre said every time a show returns, about 200 more employees will be called back.
There will be changes to some aspects of the shows. Cirque is known for interacting with the audience, but those parts of the shows will be tweaked to maintain distance between artists and audience, Lamarre said.
“But the good news is, for the public, that all the Cirque employees in Las Vegas are going to be vaccinated before we open the show, so therefore, everybody is going to be secure in our theaters,” he said.
Tickets are already on sale. The prices are about the same as before the pandemic, but Lamarre said they are going to be "sensitive" to what people are going to be willing to pay.
And he said when the time is right, Cirque will do something "special" for Las Vegas locals when it comes to ticket prices.
Lamarre acknowledged there is a special relationship between Cirque and Las Vegas.
“We are Vegas and Vegas is Cirque du Soleil,” he said. “It’s amazing that we have such a close bond with your community, and to me, it’s only an honor.”
Daniel Lamarre, CEO and president, Cirque du Soleil.