As Cirque expansion hits high gear, a word with the guy who abstained
Dragone, you ought to know, created Mystère, O, Celine Dion’s … A New Day and Le Rêve. The first two represented the most significant reinvention in Las Vegas entertainment since Siegfried & Roy and are now among the top ticket-selling live productions in world history. Back when Dragone made those shows, he was the guiding creative force of Cirque du Soleil. He was responsible for six of their shows, including Nouvelle Experience, the one that enchanted Steve Wynn at the Santa Monica Pier in 1990 and then wowed Vegas-goers in the Mirage parking lot in 1991. That’s how the empire was launched.
But O was also Dragone’s final Cirque contribution, along with La Nouba at Disney World, which also opened in late 1998. After O, Cirque founder and owner Guy Laliberte brought in TV executive Daniel Lamarre as chief operating officer, with the aim of accelerating Cirque’s production schedule and expanding the brand. Dragone, fearful of losing creative control and uncomfortable with this direction, departed.
When I got Dragone on the line to discuss the exponential growth of Cirque, he was quite clear right at the start that he would not criticize his “former family.” Like a divorcee trying to keep it civil for the sake of the kids—Dragone still consults on the shows he created for Cirque—he warned me not to go there.
That’s why I was so unsure that I was hearing him correctly that I had others listen to the recording to be sure. And there’s no doubt in any of our minds: Dragone interrupted me as I was moving on to another question to return to an earlier conversation we had been having about last decade’s Cirque explosion. “Excuse me,” he suddenly interjected, “if you ask me if I would have done the same thing, I would have told you, non. Voila!”Voila, of course, is French for “there it is.” And there it is indeed, the path not taken for Cirque du Soleil.
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