Decade has seen its ups, downs

If you’re looking for fine words to close out the troubled 2000s, here’s a start:

“We never give up.”

If you want to say that represents the American spirit, I would not argue. But the phrase came in a conversation with a Canadian named Gilles Ste-Croix. He is one of Cirque du Soleil’s founding creative talents.

Like most of us, Cirque had its ups and downs these past 10 years. All forms of media, this newspaper included, will soon bombard you with “Top 10” lists of the year and/or decade. I won’t jump the gun, but Cirque and its five shows in the 2000s obviously lead a short (non-numbered!) list of the decade’s most significant entertainment happenings on the Strip.

Cirque rolled into 2000 with an unprecedented popularity after “Mystere” and “O,” but faced audience resistance for the erotic “Zumanity” in 2003 and the operatic “Ka” in 2005.

“We were pretentious on sexiness,” Ste-Croix says of “Zumanity.” “We came to be much more light about it, I would say.” Last week, he and the cast toasted the 3,000th performance. “Finally it found itself a niche.”

Cirque may have met frustrating passiveness about “Ka,” but didn’t encounter active hatred until “Criss Angel: Believe.”

“It was a clash between some of the elements that were very Cirque and some of the elements of Criss’ persona, so we have revisited all of that,” he says. “We feel really much more comfortable today. We are definitely getting there.

“We will be satisfied,” he adds.

• Other milestones of the 2000s: You’ve probably forgotten the cable series “More Vegas Showgirls: Nearly Famous 2” and the topless revue “Skintight” it followed on and offstage. But that 2003 marriage of reality TV and Las Vegas entertainment was binding and now almost mandatory. The survival of “Peepshow” is said to ride on a new reality series with Holly Madison.

• Broadway musicals. They came and mostly went, but those that lingered enriched and diversified the Strip.

• The return of big names as corporate enterprise. Caesars Palace didn’t hire Celine Dion, Cher, Elton John and Bette Midler. But AEG Live made the numbers work — albeit with high ticket prices — without depending on a casino drop.

• Not-so-big names. This is the trend I fear we won’t talk about in 10 years. Terry Fator came to The Mirage this year because he won a network TV talent show. Danny Gans opened the same room in 2000 because casinos were taking chances on talents including Clint Holmes — the one I miss the most — even if they had no real outside fame.

How many years in the ’10s will it take for casinos to gamble like that again?

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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