[The Incidental Tourist]

A quarter-century later, Mystére continues to lead the Las Vegas entertainment pack

Photo: Erik Kabik / Courtesy

The Strip is always changing. Even when the recession slowed development of new resorts and attractions and crushed the city’s climbing tourism numbers—Las Vegas surpassed 39 million visitors in 2007 and took four more years to approach that mark again—an evolution in Vegas entertainment options was still taking place.

Some would say the Strip is at a turning point, with professional sports changing the entertainment landscape, new resorts on the horizon and the recent purchase of Caesars Entertainment likely leading to the sale of some Strip properties.

Cirque du Soleil is a Vegas institution and seems like it might be a rare constant on the Strip—an enduring and stabilizing force—but it’s changing, too. It always has. Cirque has expanded its operations around the world in recent years ,and in Las Vegas, it has acquired the Blue Man Group and announced a new project for Luxor in October, a live-action thriller called R.U.N that could spawn a new genre of production show on the Strip.

There’s a foundation for this transformation, and it has been planted at Treasure Island for more than 25 years. Mystére became Cirque’s first Vegas resident production when it opened on Christmas Day 1993 in a custom-built theater seating more than 1,500. In some ways, it remains the cinematic, acrobatic standard for all Cirque shows—shows which have dominated Strip entertainment for most of the past two decades.

Mystére has weathered massive change at Treasure Island, including the resort’s gradual de-theming and an ownership change from Steve Wynn to MGM Resorts to Phil Ruffin. It’s the only Cirque show in Las Vegas not based at an MGM property. When R.U.N was announced in April, Cirque President and CEO Daniel Lamarre said Mystére signed on for a five-year renewal at TI last year and indicated Ruffin would love to keep the show at his casino-hotel for longer.

All of these elements make Mystére a show apart but don’t do justice to the truly amazing spectacle it remains after 25 years. I returned to Mystére in January for the first time in more than a decade and was blown away by its otherworldly staging and cohesive blend of comedy and fantasy, as if I’d never seen Cirque du Soleil before. I’ve seen a lot of Cirque—all the Cirque—but I left TI wowed and continue raving about Mystére to anyone who’ll listen. The most recent person was Brian Burke, creative director of Le Réve at Wynn and Celine Dion’s A New Day residency at Caesars Palace, and the current executive producer of the new Celestia at the Strat. And he raved right back, about his love of Mystére and his own, similar reaction during a recent return.

The cast of 65 has changed over the years, but many of the original acts remain in updated form. The latest addition is the duo straps act—a male and female aerial duo that soars over a wide-eyed audience. The planche act, where speedy performers catapult each other on a teeterboard and dash, flip and spin across the multi-trampoline power track, was recently upgraded.

Since it was the first, Mystére might exist in your memory—as it did in mine—as the “smaller” Cirque show. But that’s a trick. Its sprawling scale is revealed throughout the performance by the moving, expanding, wrap-around stage space. There’s no part of this room that isn’t part of the show. It’s still one of the biggest experiences on the Strip.

MYSTÉRE Saturday- Wednesday, 7 & 9:30 p.m., $64-$135. Treasure Island, 702-894-7722.

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An award-winning writer who has been documenting life in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, Brock Radke covers entertainment ...

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