Kenny Ortega, who has just finished his latest work on Lake of Dreams at Wynn Las Vegas, is a master at designing dance and movement. Ortega doesn’t just choreograph humans, either.
Ortega recalls showing his work at Bellagio Fountains to a pair of dignitaries on the Strip: comic actor Robin Williams and resort mogul Steve Wynn.
“We were standing out on Las Vegas Boulevard, and we were looking at one of the very first programs that had yet to be premiered, and Robin was standing there like a director choreographer screaming, ‘Number 1,253, you’re off! Your timing is off!’” Ortega says. “I always wished I could speak to the fountain in that capacity.”
But the animated characters in the new Lake of Dreams, they talk, from the show’s natural and safe social distance across the water. The first upgrade in the attraction’s 15-year history — dating to the opening of the resort — is finally upon us. Find it at the Wynn, staged at the lagoon outside SW Steakhouse, Parasol Down bar and Lakeside restaurant.
Now that “Le Reve” has been shut down and Encore Theater is latent, Lake of Dreams is the hotel’s lone large-scale source of entertainment. The company has invested $14 million in the display and has picked the right guy to head up its renovation.
Ortega is an Emmy Award-winning director, choreographer and producer whose credits include the “High School Musical” series, the Michael Jackson documentary “This Is It,” “Hocus Pocus,” “Dirty Dancing,” “Pretty In Pink,” and the “Descendants” trilogy. The acclaimed director has reunited with the original creative team of Michael Curry (“Disney’s The Lion King” and “Frozen” on Broadway, the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics; and the Lady Gaga, Cher, Britney Spears and Katy Perry tours) and Patrick Woodroffe (Lady Gaga, Rolling Stones, Adele, The Eagles, Cher, Elton John events and tours; and the 2012 London Olympics).
Wynn Entertainment General Manager Rick Gray also worked on the creative redevelopment.
Ortega began redesigning the Lake of Dreams about three years ago, long before COVID forced live entertainment from Las Vegas stages. The timing is fortuitous to draw attention to the dazzling new show, even through the pandemic did slow down its development.
“COVID absolutely slowed us down, but it didn’t stop us,” Ortega says. “We found a way to work virtually, and we were connected for months and months, you know, developing the animation and Michael’s side of things and the lighting … and, then we got the call, ‘Las Vegas is opening up, the Wynn is safe.’ We’re taking every precaution, of course.”
The new story is features such effects as Emoji Orbs, a pair of emoticons who glide along the water; Lady Birds, three 28-foot-tall songbirds; Astronaut, a space figure orbiting the water; and Electra, an emcee created of light who also flies over the diners.
The itself lake covers 3 acres, the backing mountain is 11 stories high, a total of 1,500 pine trees are displayed and more than 5,500 LED lights are in play.
What else? There is a 30-foot Singing Frog, who survived the upgrade and has been rebuilt. Also, a closing disco scene reminds what it’s like to groove at close range in the pre-pandemic era.
Ortega says when he was asked to update his work, his first thought was, “It’s about time. I remember Steve saying to me, ‘Ortega, we’re building you a theater that you can come back to year after year after year.’”
Several weeks ago Ortega called for an early run of the show, with Wynn CEO Matt Maddox and President Marilyn Spiegel on hand.
“We were showing the piece ‘Space Oddity’ that’s one of the favorites, and Marilyn looked over at me and said, ‘Can we turn the music up?’” Ortega said. “And I said, ‘This is a woman who owns my heart now.’”
Delivery is here
“Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding,” a Vegas title that knows how to survive, is moving online at 7 p.m. Thursday. Register on Zoom at TonyandTinavirtual.com. Original director Larry Pellegrini adapted the stage show for online. The $15 access fee goes to The Composers Showcase Entertainment Community Relief Fund at thecomposersshowcase.com.
YESCO sign company of Las Vegas is featured on the Science Channel’s new show “Impossible Fixes” at 8 p.m. and 11 pm. Wednesday, and 11 p.m. Thursday. Repair work on the Palms rooftop LED display and its neon tubing running down the side of the hotel tower is being chronicled. Company senior vice president Jeffrey Young will be interviewed. The show’s description says workers “courageously face heights, heat, and other obstacles to keep the lights burning.” Sounds good. Pass the marshmallows.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.