Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This week's LVW Col: The Franco Files

Somewhat fittingly for the Day Queen Celine Announced Her Reascension, my Las Vegas Weekly column this week focuses on Franco Dragone and his views on Cirque. He also offered up some fascinating insights on how he approached Celine's original Colosseum show and some of the drama therein between him, the singer and her husband, Rene. Enjoy. -sf

The Franco files
As Cirque expansion hits high gear, a word with the guy who abstained


That thick, thick Belgian accent was so overwhelming that I passed the audio around to three friends to make sure I had heard Franco Dragone correctly.

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.

Read the REST at LasVegasWeekly.Com


atdnext said...

Thanks for yet another look behind the curtain of Cirque-world. I'm not sure what to think of his critique of "Criss Angel Believe"... Does he really think Cirque is to blame for the fiasco or does he just not want to bad-mouth his friend in the press? I'm also wondering why he didn't say anything about Steve Wynn taking away creative control of "Le Reve" from him... Or is this another article in the works?


Y'know, I had covered the Le Reve conversation with Franco in a prior interview a year or two ago, so I didn't really care to go there. BUT, if you listen to the podcast this weekend, we do get into what he thinks of Le Reve now -- and it's a strange, cagey answer. So more to come on the 'cast.