No doubt aficionados of Las Vegas theatre are accustomed to overzealous displays of light, sound, acrobatics and natural effects such as water and wind. After all, Cirque du Soleil for all apparent purposes has established Vegas as its home base. And despite the assertions of creator Franco Dragone, Le Rêve has more in common with its predecessor, Cirque’s O, than not. But Le Rêve is remarkable for its elevation of the art. Like O its primary feature is a tank of a million gallons of water - but instantaneously it’s more accessible and uncomfortable, beautiful and frightful, inspiring and heartful than O could hope to be. In essence, it loses the quirky side of Cirque in favor of a Broadway sensibility - and for many, that will represent a huge improvement. This show is an absolute must-see.
Le Rêve, which translates to "The Dream," takes its inspiration from the centerpiece painting owned by hotel owner Steve Wynn - Picasso’s painting of the same name. (Tidbit: Wynn had originally considered naming his hotel Le Rêve after the painting.) It takes place in a surprisingly intimate space - a theatre in the round wherein none of the stadium seats is further than 42 feet from the action. Without the benefit of wing space, the set pieces and actors primarily fly in from above, or rise out of the huge circular water tank on the "floor" of the theatre. The story is ethereal and surreal, often difficult to follow and almost entirely superfluous. You’re aware that there is a woman protagonist, her suitor, a necromancer, four white-suited amorous comedians, and elements of heaven and hell. How these pieces fit together is less obvious - and given the title of the show, certainly not critical to enjoying it.
Some significant highlights: a synchronized swimming dance in the central pool with submerged girls executing a precise upside-down tango with red pumps, a trio of flexible girls performing acrobatics in a suspended globe, a metallic tree that rises out of the water, then becomes a diving stage for a significant number of muscle boys, and the climax of the production, which ties Le Rêve thematically to The Wynn Hotel in its visuals. Musically, the production is deft and capable (my partner and I bought the CD and have been enjoying it on its own) - and it’s the first time I’ve seen live performers in this type of Vegas show take a bow with the cast.
The high diving and ground acrobatics (particularly a homoerotic male new-age dance de pas) are also phenomenal - these, like so many other feats within Le Rêve, are so fluidly injected into the blend of story, startling visuals and dance it’s sometimes difficult to remember just how tremendously challenging the stunts are. And yet you really are watching primarily athletes, not actors; they are exquisitely toned, their movements beautifully orchestrated and deceptively graceful.
Two further notes on the production values. I’ve mentioned the presence of well-toned, shaved muscle boys (and for you girls out there, the women in the show are equally stunning). For pure eye-candy, you really can’t do better than Le Rêve - and anyone who exits the show speaking exclusively about the "acrobatics" or the "lighting" is belying the flush in their cheeks given rise via the more sensual side of the show. The one detriment to the show is that even when it attempts humor, it largely fails - comic relief characters interrupt the show, they don’t add to it. The Wynn is known for continually evolving this production; comedy is where they need to either perfect or cut.
A few statistics (because they’re just amazing): the pool itself is 89 degrees Fahrenheit, its water is filtered four times a day, the platforms at the center of the stage rise above the water during the finale an amazing 15 feet, there are 207 moving lights in the auditorium, and it requires 170 people to support the ninety-two international performers during each show.
Le Rêve is the type of show you’ll talk about and remember fondly for years; you should absolutely make room for it in your itinerary. Tickets can be pricey, but if you’re on a budget grab some of the front-row seats. You might get a wee bit damp, but the view is absolutely spectacular (and you’re that much closer to the hotties in the cast.) For those with the cash to spend, pay for the Indulgence Package - you’ll sit in oversized chairs, be treated with complimentary champagne, chocolates and strawberries, and enjoy a live video feed with behind-the-scenes views as the show progresses. This last is a unique and fascinating feature for those who’d love to see what goes on both above and below the water - it’s fantastic.