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New ‘WOW’ show splashes around, but it’s not all wet

This show is billed as a water spectacular, but it’s not all wet.

“The water is more like an element of the show,” said its director, Hanoch Rosenn. “I wouldn’t call it a water show, per se. It’s an element in the show, but many acts are dry.”

“Many Acts Are Dry!” might not be the best billboard, but it’s handy information as “WOW”prepares for its splashy (sorry) debut at the Rio Sept. 26. The show incorporates specialty acts from more than 30 international acrobats. Versions of “WOW” have been performed overseas for 15 years, most recently at the luxury Isrotel Theatre in Eilat, Israel.

The show certainly boasts ample financial backing, having sold more than 2.5 million tickets during its impressive international run.

For “WOW” (short for “World of Wonder”), the old “Rock in Rio” and “Duck Commander Musical” theater is being overhauled to create a largely in-the-round experience, with a 1,000-square-foot pool and LED screens running the entire width of the stage.

The “Duck Commander” producers, Dodger Theatricals, reportedly spent $1 million revamping the space for the show. Rosenn said the “WOW” investment easily exceeds that amount.

For a Vegas-centric reference point, Rosenn is to this production as Guy Laliberté was to the original versions of Cirque du Soleil. Laliberté started Cirque when he was a street performer in Quebec City in Canada; Rosenn started his career as a mime in Jerusalem, his hometown. In fact, Rosenn’s skills earned him the nickname “The Prince of Mimes” (in a loose connection, the real Prince headlined the Rio showroom in 2006-‘07).

Rosenn no longer has time for mime — but his experience makes him an especially effective director of the show’s many unique acts. “I am passionate about performance,” he says. “I feel the energy in the room, even now, of what is going to happen in here.”

One of his favorite acts is Sylvia Sylvia, the semifinalist from “America’s Got Talent” famous for shooting an apple off her own head — a core performance not achieved overnight.

“She has done her act for 30 years and it lasts 15 minutes,” Rosenn said. “This is what she does, and when she shoots that apple off her head, it is frightening.”

Rosenn scouted “Le Rêve” and “O” as he pitched “Wow” to Caesars Entertainment execs: “We have seen both, and Franco Dragone (creator of “Le Rêve”) is just brilliant,” Rosenn says. “With ‘O,’ we saw it 15 years ago and had no idea how the hell they did some of the acts that show. It’s amazing with the stage, and all the divers. But we’re not competing with a $100 million dollar production. This is a family-friendly show so people can come and have a really different and intimate experience.”

Acts include a dance number with pirates, synchronized swimmers, jugglers, a Chinese pole duo, five dancers performing to a “Titanic” theme (and gosh, we miss “Jubilee”), a contortionist in a giant water bowl, and a dancing tribute to “Singin’ in the Rain.”

“We have acts that last for just four minutes, but have been brought to perfection in that four minutes,” Rosenn says. “The show is quick and really moves along. It has poetic moments, and there is laughing, fun, dancing. If you like this number, good. If you don’t, there is another number coming right up.”

When asked the magic question all Las Vegas show producers face — Why would a tourist, or a local, choose “WOW” over the city’s many existing entertainment options? — Rosenn didn’t hesitate.

“If somebody’s coming here looking for an 85-minute show that is fast-paced and full of costume changes and dancing and acrobatics, this is the show,” he said. “ There are many times that person will say, ‘Wow!’ He’s going to say that at least 10 times.”

As the former mime made that claim, the response was, “Wow!” So make it 11.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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