Cirque du Soleil performers apply makeup.

The Return Of Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas: Everything You Need To Know

Entertainment giant Cirque du Soleil (Circus of the Sun or Sun Circus in French) has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but don’t count them out just yet.

Read on to learn about the troupe’s history, understand how the pandemic has affected their operations, and see why the future of Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas is looking bright.

History Of Cirque Du Soleil  

From its humble beginnings as a small Montreal-based circus troupe in the 1980s, Cirque du Soleil has grown into the world’s largest contemporary circus and entertainment company. What started out as a group of fire-breathers and stilt-walkers performing along the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, has now become a global phenomenon.   

For decades, millions of people have been hypnotized by the company’s gravity-defying acrobatics, lavish costumes, high-tech stagecraft, and whimsy stories. The group has resident shows in Mexico, China, and Las Vegas, as well as touring productions in a handful of other countries. 

Cirque du Soleil premiered their first Las Vegas production in 1992 with a year-long engagement of Nouvelle Expérience under a big top at the Mirage Hotel. Since then, the group has become a fixture of the Las Vegas entertainment scene.

Cirque Du Soleil’s Las Vegas Shows

Exterior of the Mirage Hotel draped with a Beatles Love banner in Las Vegas.

LOVE is a Grammy-award winning show inspired by The Beatles.

Prior to COVID-19 shutdowns, the company was running six Strip shows. One show, Zumanity, has since been permanently closed, but the other five are slated to return once government restrictions relax. They are...

Michael Jackson ONE - Described as a fusion of acrobatics, dance, and visuals, this production blends Cirque’s over-the-top artistry with The King of Pop’s top hits. ONE performs exclusively at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

KÀ: This critically acclaimed production is a new spin on one of the oldest subjects in history—battle. Cirque uses dimension-bending confrontations and a colossal moving stage in order to redefine what it means to fight. KÀ runs at the MGM Grand. 

LOVE: A three-time Grammy Award winning show, LOVE is an homage to the Beatles. World-class aerials, acrobats, and dancers bring the iconic pop group’s poetic lyrics to life with a series of awe-inspiring acts. LOVE plays at The Mirage. 

Mystère: This show is a music-stuffed adventure to an imaginary world full of color, silliness, and hilarious gags. It runs at Treasure Island. 

O: This show’s name is a play on words of the French word for water eau (pronounced the same way). And there’s definitely no shortage of water in this surreal production. Acrobats, synchronized swimmers, and divers create a breathtaking experience celebrating the elegance of water. O plays at the Bellagio.

COVID’s Impact On Cirque Du Soleil

The coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly the biggest threat Cirque du Soleil has faced in their 37-year history. Like most entertainment companies, government shutdowns and restrictions have proven to be a massive blow to the group’s operations.

For starters, the company had to completely shutter its six wildly-successful Strip shows on March 14, 2020 without knowing when they’d be able to reopen. Next came the task of repatriating touring performers. As the pandemic continued, executives were faced with the painful task of laying off over 5,000 employees (about 95% of its workforce). Of those 5,000, 3,500 call Las Vegas home. 

This kind of story has become banal in an era defined by closures, uncertainty, and economic turmoil, but Cirque’s situation looked especially dire in the early days.  

That’s because large gatherings are Cirque du Soleil’s lifeblood. Plus, its army of 1,800 performers rely on international travel to get from show to show, often performing on cruise ships and interacting with fans along the way. What’s more, daily training regimens require constant physical contact. And the entire operation rests on a complex network of cargo ships, trucks, hotels, and food-service businesses that ground to a halt in early 2020. 

Perhaps the most tangible change for Cirque fans was the November 2020 closure of the long-running “Zumanity” show at New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. During its 17-year run, the “adult-themed” burlesque/cabaret spectacle welcomed 7.25 million guests.

How Cirque Du Soleil Has Adapted

But just because things have been tough for Cirque du Soleil doesn’t mean that everything is doom and gloom. The company has made several adaptations in order to stay in business.

Digital offerings

Within a month of closing their Las Vegas productions, Cirque du Soleil launched an online platform called Cirque Connect. The platform aims to provide an escape for Cirque fans during this challenging period. It features behind-the-scenes footage, circus-inspired workouts, and interviews with cast members. 

Going forward, one of Cirque’s backers, Capital Catalyst Group, hopes to add revenue from a new digital offering that would allow fans to stream Cirque shows and other branded content.

Bankruptcy Filing

Extended closures have meant major financial woes for Cirque Entertainment Group. Whereas in 2019 they netted more than $1 billion in revenue, 2020 saw them take on nearly $1 billion in debt. 

Not surprisingly, the group needed outside help to stay afloat. On June 30, 2020 the company filed for bankruptcy protection in both Canada and the United States. The protections came to an end in November when Cirque announced its sale to new investors, notably Capital Catalyst Group, a Toronto investment firm. 

In addition to a $375 million investment to help the company restart its shows, two prominent Las Vegas officials are joining the Cirque management team: former MGM Resorts Entertainment Chairman and current Nevada COVID Task Force head Jim Murren, and MGM Resorts President of Entertainment and Sports George Kliavkoff. Cirque’s current president and CEO Daniel Lamarre will remain in his post. 

Shows reopening

On June 3, Cirque reopened “X: The Land of Fantasy” in Hangzhou, the capital city of east China’s Zhejiang province. Just a month later, Cirque reopened “Joya,” its first resident show in Mexico. 

According to its initial reopening plan, the first Cirque holding to return to the stage might not be a traditional Cirque show. Rather, it’s likely that Blue Man Group, which Cirque owns, will return to the Luxor stage first.

“O” at the Bellagio and “Mystère” at Treasure Island will likely be the next shows to reopen. Afterward, the company is planning a staggered reopening to the other shows so that starting in July, a Cirque show would open roughly every month through the end of 2021.

The Future Of Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas

 Exterior shot of the Bellagio Hotel draped with a banner for Cirque du Soleil “O” in Las Vegas.

“O,” the long-running, water-based show will likely be one of the first Cirque du Soleil shows to return to Las Vegas.

When Cirque du Soleil will return to the stage depends entirely on local and state officials. As of April 1, 2020, public events are limited to 250 individuals or 50 percent of fire code capacity, whichever is less, with strict social distancing requirements enforced. 

Further changes are expected on May 1, but that will depend entirely on COVID case numbers and hospital availability. Similarly, Cirque Senior Vice President Eric Grilly noted that he’s still waiting to hear about social distancing protocols and capacity limits. 

He was confident in saying that cast members won’t interact with audience members like they did in the past (no more invitations to come on stage, for example). However, he tempered this news by saying the overall performance will still be the show that “people have come to know and love.”

It’s also worth noting that Cirque could survive playing to smaller houses. Both company CEO Daniel Lamarre and Cirque board member George Kliavkoff have said that running Strip shows at 50% would still keep the company in the black. 

That’s one reason to be optimistic about the future of Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas, but it’s certainly not the only one. Cirque’s Beatles-theme show “LOVE” in celebrating its 15-year anniversary in 2021 and hopefully function as a welcome-back event following the year-long shutdown. 

What’s more, Lamarre is optimistic about the company making a full recovery in terms of the number of shows, revenues, and profits by 2023.

Keep A Lookout For The Return Of Cirque Du Soleil

There’s no doubt Cirque du Soleil will make a huge comeback in 2021. Although the return date remains unclear, the company’s leadership and performers are eager to get back to doing what they do best—entertaining huge crowds with awe-inspiring stunts and elaborate performances. 

If you’re interested in booking Cirque du Soleil tickets for your upcoming trip to Las Vegas, make sure to keep an eye out for updates on their official website

In addition, you can check out which other shows are making a return in 2021, by clicking here.

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