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Cirque, Vegas staple ‘Zumanity’ closing after 17 years

Updated November 16, 2020 - 5:51 pm

On the day “Zumanity” closed, the show’s epilogue was conveyed poignantly by the show’s emcee, Christopher Kenney. The comic actor has portrayed the popular drag character Edie for nearly 13 years.

“There was a tiny glimmer of hope that we would go back to work in these horrible times,” Kenney, who appeared in more than 5,500 performances, said Monday. “To have had that yanked out from under us is pretty shocking. But the outpouring of love is overwhelming right now. I have cried a lot.”

“Zumanity,” a Cirque du Soleil hit dating to its opening at New York-New York in 2003, has permanently closed. The company announced Monday that the show won’t reopen. Thus, “Zumanity” is the first Cirque show on the Strip to close since the company halted all of its productions in March because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The production employed about 120 artists, crew members and support staff. The benefits provided by the company for those who were laid off expire in two weeks.

“Zumanity was a groundbreaking departure for Cirque du Soleil when it opened in September of 2003,” Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, said in a statement Monday. “We are forever grateful to the extraordinarily talented cast, crew and staff who helped make Zumanity an unforgettable experience for more than 7.25 million guests.”

In a phone chat Monday afternoon, Lamarre said that even as “Zumanity” is closing, Cirque’s long-term objective is to continue to stage shows in Las Vegas, likely at a smaller scale. The 1,300-seat Zumanity Theater could be overhauled for a future Cirque show.

“As much as I feel sad in shutting down the show, we want the artists to be able to come back to some of our shows, as well,” Lamarre said. “We hope we can recoup as many as we can.”

MGM Resorts International remains Cirque’s primary partner in Las Vegas, and officials plan to reopen four remaining shows. MGM Resorts International President of Sports and Entertainment George Kliavkoff posted on Twitter, “Difficult news to announce, but an amazing 17 years for ‘Zumanity.’ While we will not be reopening ‘Zu,’ @MGMResortsIntl has agreed to extend our 4 other @cirque shows: ‘O’ at @Bellagio, ‘Beatles LOVE @TheMirageLV, ‘KA @MGMGrand and Michael Jackson ONE at @MandalayBay.”

Cirque also announced that Treasure Island, independently owned by Phil Ruffin, and Cirque have recommitted to Mystère with its own contract extension. “With these extensions, Cirque du Soleil shows are guaranteed to entertain audiences well into the future,” the company said in a news release.

Over the summer, a group of new investors took over the faltering company, which remains based in Montreal.

“Zumanity” was Cirque’s lone adult-themed production, and played more than 7,700 shows. Its finale was March 14, just before all 44 Cirque productions worldwide (and six in Las Vegas) were halted due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

One of “Zumanity’s” original cast members, aerialist Alan Silva, was a finalist this season on “America’s Got Talent.”

“I’m OK, you know, it’s fine. Of course, I will miss the show, having been part of the creation,” Silva said. “We don’t know how many shows in general will survive this pandemic. Right now, I don’t know what is going to happen. Many doors will open. But it’s sad for the artists, sad for the fans of the show, and sad for my family.”

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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