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Cirque official: Acrobats still part of the act; ‘MJ One’ to stay

Updated May 10, 2019 - 5:51 pm

Daniel Lamarre is not ready to pink-slip the clowns and acrobats in Cirque du Soleil.

“I think the challenge for us is each show has to be distinctive, to have new ideas to apply to acrobatics,” Cirque’s CEO and president said this past week in an interview in the company’s Las Vegas headquarters. “We’re not saying no, forever. But now, our clientele looking for acrobatic shows is very well served.”

Lamarre’s company has just announced “R.U.N,” a show it stresses does not not feature the acrobats and clowns that made the company famous. The company is expanding beyond the gymnasts and aerial and aquatic artists bounding around its other six shows on the Strip. Opening Oct. 24, “R.U.N” is presented as a kind of “Fast & Furious” action-adventure film set for the stage.

The company’s energy is behind that new show, the first Cirque show to open on the Strip since “Michael Jackson One” launched in 2013.

Lamarre spoke of the Cirque universe beyond the new show. Some highlights, and note Lamarre’s repeated use of “machine” in describing the company:

Cirque never considered reassessing its staging of “MJ One”: Lamarre answered, “No, no,” when asked if the explosive HBO documentary “Leaving Neverland” had initiated discussion of pulling the Jackson tribute show from Mandalay Bay.

Lamarre reiterated that Cirque is not involved in the Jackson estate’s litigation against HBO. He added, “The good news there is that we’re still selling very, very well, and it’s almost as if there is a movement right now from Michael’s fans to really support everything he does … including ‘MJ One.’ ”

Other production shows can’t match the Cirque “marketing machine:” Look no further than “Fuerza Bruta,” which flamed out after five weeks at a reinforced tent at Excalibur.

“We are still in a unique position in Las Vegas, and we saw it recently when ‘Fuerza Bruta’ came in and they had to shut it down after a few weeks because they didn’t have the machine, the marketing machine, that we have,” Lamarre said. “Before you buy ticket to a show other than a Cirque du Soleil show … you will have to struggle, because I have so many shows to offer to you. I know a lot of people who have come here and seen two shows, three shows, with Cirque du Soleil and they don’t get bored. That dominant situation we’re in has allowed us to maintain the level of ticket sales to succeed.”

Cirque is opting for “dynamic pricing” in its ticket strategy: Such discounts as 40 percent off for “Love” or 2-for-1 deals for “Zumanity” are results of demand for tickets across all Cirque shows.

“We did not have this until after 2012, when we found it was a little bit more difficult for us in this city,” Lamarre said. “But now we have ‘dynamic pricing,’ a little bit like an airline company, where we can play with our ticket pricing depending on what day of the week, and the occupancy level and all of that. … We have been able to keep about the same level and even a little bit more ticket sales overall as we’ve done this.

“The shows are much more stable than people like to think.”

Under Cirque, Blue Man Group is an international production: “Blue Man Group has been U.S.-centric, North American-centric, and Cirque has 450 cities around the world, and has a distribution machine that is totally unique,” Lamarre said. “Nobody in the world tours at that scale. So when you do an acquisition like Blue Man Group, you can tour that show in 450 cities as well.”

“Mystere” has been extended at T.I. “We’ve renewed the contract for an additional five years, and if I believe (hotel owner) Phil Ruffin, and I do, the show is there forever,” Lamarre said. “It has been there for 25 years. It is the granddaddy.”

The plan is for Cirque du Soleil remain the Strip’s predominant production company in five years: “Totally, and I would hope that we would be growing,” Lamarre said. “This one is a major test for us because if ‘R.U.N’ can achieve what we think it will achieve, then it will bring another growth pattern for Cirque du Soleil.”

As for anyone who wants to partner with the company in future acquisitions, Lamarre said, “We’re still in the lookout, always … yep, because the business model we have developed is working and now it has intrigued interest from people. Now, people are calling us.”

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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