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Cirque du Soleil co-founder still working on buyback

Updated June 7, 2020 - 10:51 am

Guy Laliberte’s proposed buyback of Cirque du Soleil would be a fairy-tale outcome for the company he co-founded 35 years ago. Laliberte is among the interested parties seeking to take over Cirque, financially undercut by the worldwide COVID-19 entertainment shutdown.

Laliberte would certainly return an artistic emphasis to the international circus company, which has taken on a more corporate mission since Laliberte was bought out by an investment group led by TPG Capital in 2014. His sudden interest in acquiring Cirque is great theater for what was the Strip’s leading production company before it ceased operations entirely in March.

The fact that Cirque has “gone corporate,” focusing on the bottom line and focusing on such acquisitions as Blue Man Group and The Works Entertainment, is a common complaint within the company. Corporations are still hovering over Cirque, the Québecor communications company among them.

The Québec government has offered a $200 million loan to Cirque, insisting on the condition that if the company is sold, that money would go toward its purchase. That provision would keep Cirque, a treasured institution in Quebec, in its home province.

Facing $900 million in debt, Cirque might still opt for bankruptcy. It could happen as early as next week or not at all.

But the Laliberte involvement is the real wild card, from an avid poker player with an passion for performance. Laliberte has grown from a fire-breather, juggler and stilt-walker to a shrewd billionaire businessman. He’s a high school dropout playing high stakes against Ivy League financiers. If nothing else, Laliberte has sweetened the pot.

Cirque’s prep

Added to its current economic anxiety, Cirque du Soleil is facing a considerable artistic and financial challenge in returning shows to the stage. It takes a Cirque cast two or three days of rehearsal for every week missed to return to form. If Cirque expects to return in December, it could mean between two and three months of rehearsals — paid rehearsals — before any ticket revenue is generated.


On the topic of Las Vegas stage performers … aerialist and acrobat Alan Jones Silva and sword-swallower Brett Loudermilk are both competing on the upcoming 15th season of “America’s Got Talent.” Their performances are due to air during one of the audition episodes. The next is 8 p.m. Tuesday on NBC.

Las Vegas acts have traditionally performed well on the show, and three former champs — Terry Fator, Mat Franco and Michael Grimm — live and work in town. Before COVID-19, there was considerable buzz about an “AGT” stage show moving into Luxor, a concept that makes sense.

Great Scott

John Scott of “Absinthe’s” terrific twin tap tandem Sean and John was in top form at Friday’s Black Lives Matter rally in Las Vegas’ Historic Westside neighborhood. Victoria Jones and her Tap Matters dance team invited Scott to the performance, which drew a roar from the 4,000 folks demonstrating at Kianga Isoke Palacio Park near Doolittle Community Center.

Scott posted a clip of the electrifying performance on the @seanandjohn Instagram page. He seems ready to be back in a show, now.

Dream awakens

Wynn Las Vegas has revived its Lake of Dreams multimedia show, but the version being designed by famed producer, director and choreographer Kenny Ortega won’t premiere until the fall. Ortega has been working on the new show for at least the past year and a half, and also designed the original version.

Ortega directed Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” stage show, which never played O2 Arena in London, and headed up the documentary film released after Jackson’s death. He also directed the “High School Musical” series, and was the choreographer for the films “Dirty Dancing,” “Xanadu,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” featuring the legendary “Danke Schoen”/“Twist & Shout” street scene.

And, long story short: I once grooved next to Ortega at a Matt Goss show at Caesars a decade ago. True story. He even taught me a few steps.

Big Elvis returns

Las Vegas Strip favorite Pete “Big Elvis” Vallee is back at Harrah’s Piano Bar with shows at 2, 3 and 5 p.m. Friday.

“I’m always the last to go, and the first to return,” said Vallee, who performed his no-cover tribute to The King right up until the March 18 COVID-19 shutdown.

Vallee returns with his resonant renditions of Elvis classics, sung to tracks. He’s not sure of the room’s layout, but he does plan to enter and exit with a Presley-styled face cover. Think of it as a small cape.

‘Fantasy’ … at Tuscany

“Fantasy” at Luxor vocalist Lorena Peril is taking a break from her “TruckAoke” shows with hubby Ray Jon Narbaitz to host Kenny Davidsen’s show at Tuscany Suites’ Piazza lounge Friday night. Tips are welcome and there is no cover, aside from the one over your face …

Downtown, downtown

Why we missed the scene in #VegasVille: Catching up with nightlife icon Johnny O’Donnell, former Flamingo and Harrah’s President Rick Mazer and Fremont Street Experience President Patrick Hughes at the reopening of La Comida on Fremont East. Later, a few of us caught up with the D Las Vegas co-owner Derek Stevens and his crew at that hotel’s Longbar. Quality hang. Quality.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats! podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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What ever happened to Elvis?

‘The King’ has been consistently depicted on the Strip in a ticketed production show since at least 1978, but there is no longer any Elvis Presley tribute on the Strip and, at the moment, none at all anywhere in the city.