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Shakeup in ‘O’ management after performer injured

Updated July 5, 2023 - 6:29 pm

A week after one of its accomplished, experienced artists was injured onstage in “O,” Cirque du Soleil has announced two senior officials are “on leave” from the show.

In companywide, internal memo issued Wednesday by Cirque President of Resident Shows Division Eric Grilly, the company announced Senior Company Manager Tony Ricotta and Senior Artistic Director Pierre Parisien are on leave from the show.

Grilly also met with the show’s cast and crew at O Theatre at Bellagio late Wednesday afternoon to tell them the news in-person.

The management shakeup is the result of injuries suffered by “O” artist Kyle Mitrione in Wednesday’s 9:30 p.m. performance. The memo, with Cirque’s sunburst logo letterhead, began with the subject line, “Update and changes following June 28th incident.”

No timeline was given for how long the two sidelined officials would be away from the production. But Parisien e-mailed what seemed a farewell note to the cast Tuesday.

The creative official said he would be with the Orlando production “Dawn To Life” for two weeks. He added, “I needed a little bit of time to process everything that has happened to me in the past three weeks,” and thanked the crew for “all of the great work we did together during the years I was there.”

The company has already assigned officials to fill the two open slots. Claude Bourbonniere is stepping in as senior company manager, working with the just-appointed Senior Artistic Director Tim Smith.

Mitrione, a former champion diver out of Purdue University, was injured while performing a back-dive during the Island number, an act put into the show two weeks before the incident. Mitrione hit the Island landing with his head as the set piece rose from the show’s aquatic stage.

Mitrione reportedly fractured his neck and was taken from the theater on a stretcher, and underwent a five-hour, emergency surgery late Wednesday night. The show paused as he was treated onstage and taken from the theater, then resumed. “O” has not missed a performance because of the accident.

Mitrione is reportedly conscious and aware of what happened. Sources on the scene say he was coherent after the incident and able to move his extremities. A fundraising campaign has been launched to assist in meal prep for Mitrione’s family (Venmo @mikeWynn2 is one of the donation portals).

According to his LinkedIn profile, Ricotta is company manager over “O” and “Mad Apple” at New York-New York (We first met the official in 2011, when “Zarkana” was being developed for then-Zarkana Theater at Aria). Parisien has been with Cirque since 1994, and has worked on “Mystere,” “Criss Angel Believe,” “Ka,” and “Love,” along with “O.”

The show is under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal-government’s labor-safety agency.

OSHA spokeswoman Teri Williams reiterated Wednesday that the agency is investigating the show. The official said in an e-mail that Nevada OSHA has up to six months to issue a citation, but that each case is unique and the timeframe is based on the complexity, availability of business reps and employees required for interviews, among other variables.

Cirque PR rep Ann Paladie declined to comment on Mitrione’s care and condition, or how the company is organizing any relief to the family to offset medical-related expenses.

Paladie said in an e-mail message:

“Out of respect for Kyle, and to ensure compliance with applicable medical privacy laws, we are not able to share details about his personal health condition, but please be assured that we are providing the best possible care and support for him as well as his family.”

Of the OSHA inspection and review of the production, Paladie said, “While we cannot discuss the details because the investigation remains ongoing, we are cooperating fully with OSHA. We are hiring an external consultant to do our own internal investigation as well.”

Grilly’s memo noted that two members of the Cirque human resources department would be on-site to communicate with cast and crew. The document indicated the company is looking into a range of workplace issues at “O,” and encouraging the cast and crew to be “open and forthcoming” in the information shared.

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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