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‘R.U.N’ balances its message as it opens on the Las Vegas Strip

“R.U.N” is a lesson in balance, on and off the stage. The creators of the new Cirque du Soleil show have made a concerted effort to distance the production from previous Cirque projects, while still capitalizing on the company’s familiar artistic brand.

The name of the company so dominant on the Strip was almost edited out of the show’s formal marketing efforts. In the end, Cirque survived, and is reinforced as the producer of the new action thriller at Luxor.

“There was a lot of conversation early on about how to do that, and it went back and forth and came to a company decision,” “R.U.N” director Michael Schwandt said Thursday morning, hours before the show’s premiere in the former Criss Angel Mindfreak Live Theater. “There are two sides to that coin. The show would have been judged differently if we had not used Cirque, because there would have no attachment or affiliation to the name but the name carries a lot of clout, especially here.

“It’s really great for the company to say and show what it has created in Las Vegas and how different it is.”

“R.U.N” is set apart from, say, Cirque’s original Strip resident show, “Mystere,” in that it tells a linear story — devised by Hollywood director and writer Robert Rodriguez — with an English-language narrative and even onstage dialogue. The story centers on the aftermath of a a wedding gone violently awry in a hardened, fictional version of Las Vegas.

The company has stressed from the beginning of development that “R.U.N” is not an acrobatic show, instead incorporating film-styled stunts. Consequently, “R.U.N” performers have been reconditioned to perform stunts that look sloppy and graceless.

“A traditional acrobat always sticks the landing, they want to be clean and perfect, because that is the safest way to do something,” Schwandt said. “But most of the times in this show, they look messy and grimy, to give the perception of danger. You land on your chest, your back, you neck. We are redefining what is perfection.”

One constant in any Cirque show is risk. An artist navigating an electric bike fractured his clavicle in a spill on the opening night of previews.

Audience feedback has been mixed. Traditional Cirque fans have not warmed to the show as readily as those who have no preconceived connection to the company.

“People either love or hate the differences,” Schwandt said. “A lot of people maybe bought a tickets when they went on sale thinking they were going to see the new Cirque du Soleil show, and had an expectation of what that was. But conversely, there have been a lot of people who have come into this and absolutely been blown away and are happy with the differences and the newness we have created.

“You definitely can’t please everyone, so we are not trying to do that.”

Bye-bye and Dubai

Frank Marino ends his run in “Legends in Concert” at Tropicana Theater on Tuesday night. The 33-year Las Vegas Strip headliner has nabbed a choice gig after he retires his Joan Rivers portrayal: A six-figure appearance in Dubai, produced by fashion maven Caroline Stanbury of “Ladies of London” on Bravo.

Stanbury has moved her family to Dubai, and hit the scene with Marino last week — she even introduced him to Lady Gaga at Park Theater.

Marino reports he is being paid $125,000 to perform Jan. 5-13, as Stanbury is looking to launch a “Divas Las Vegas” in Dubai.

“He’s going to make it huge in Dubai,” Stanbury said in an Instagram post on Marino’s @thequeenoflasvegas page. “He’ll be the first of his kind. Nobody has been to Dubai like Frank, and he’s going to kill it.”

McLean’s star turn

Songwriters Hall of Fame and Grammy Hall of Fame member Don McLean, who crafted the classic rock anthem “American Pie,” is the latest honoree on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars. The McLean star was placed outside Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas. McLean also notched hits with “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)” and “Castles in the Air,” among others, and 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of his breakthrough “American Pie” album and single.

“I have performed in Las Vegas so many times over the past 45 years,” McLean said in a statement. “I have seen Vegas change so much over the years, but the people who live here and visit are always ready for a good time.”

McLean joins such previous honorees as Wayne Newton, Donnie and Marie Osmond, Liberace, Rich Little, Siegfried & Roy, Sammy Davis Jr., Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Gloria Estefan and Engelbert Humperdinck.

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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