The thick haze of uncertainty that currently defines entertainment in Las Vegas finally sharpened a bit on Friday in a devastating way. Our slightly improved vision of the future didn’t come by way of clouds clearing and light shining through. This was more like a darker, more pointed storm front beginning to roll in.
Wynn Las Vegas announced last week that its 15-year-old resident production show, Le Rêve, will not be returning to the custom-built, $75 million, 1,500-seat Wynn Theater. Before the March shutdown, the award-winning aquatic spectacular had been running twice nightly five days a week and was one of the most popular shows on the Strip. Now it’s the first large-scale Vegas production to shutter because of the coronavirus.
The dissolution of this signature Vegas experience is not a complete surprise given the pandemic and its wide-ranging effects. As we’ve learned many times in recent months, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to the big events and group gatherings that fuel the community and the destination of Las Vegas. But the loss of Le Rêve is particularly painful because it’s the only big show on the Strip completely owned and operated by its host resort.
Wynn Resorts was the first company to announce it would close its Las Vegas Strip casinos to prevent the spread of coronavirus and among the first in the industry to release plans and standards explaining how to continue operations during the pandemic. Wynn and Encore have always maintained a supreme level of control over the varying venues and programming at the twin luxury resorts, including entertainment, which is how Le Rêve managed to become something of a juggernaut through its run.
Every show on the Strip has its own set of circumstances, but this closure clearly paints a dismal picture for productions and companies that don’t have the resources of a large resort. Wynn officials have decided the current conditions and the long-lasting ramifications of the shutdown will be too great to continue producing what is arguably the single most consistent entertainment draw at its resorts. In the grand scheme, Le Rêve just won’t make sense soon enough to come back.
If we didn’t already believe it or just didn’t want to, we have to now confront the reality that the biggest and most expensive shows on the Strip are in grave danger. We’re talking about O at Bellagio, Tournament of Kings at Excalibur, Michael Jackson One at Mandalay Bay, David Copperfield and KÁ at MGM Grand, The Beatles Love at the Mirage, Zumanity at New York-New York, Criss Angel’s Mindfreak at Planet Hollywood, Celestia at the Strat and Mystére at Treasure Island. Big-ticket headlining residencies like Lady Gaga’s at Park MGM are also at high risk due to cost and scale.
Remember, nothing is guaranteed, and the story is different for each and every show in Las Vegas. Everyone involved is doing everything possible to figure out a way to bring them all back, from producers and casino officials to the cast and crew members that are staying ready to perform and host showgoers again.
A Vegas closing is always heartbreaking. Le Rêve’s is more than that. It was often mistaken for a Cirque du Soleil show because of its ethereal visual qualities—and like the other big water spectacular O, it too was originally created by Franco Dragone—but Le Rêve was driven by a solid narrative, the journey of its heroine “The Dreamer” through a realm defined by her dual desires of love versus passion, mind against body. Just two years ago the show completed a major overhaul adding new music, costumes, choreography and lighting and visual effects, but its legendary and breathtaking signature scenes remained: a spellbinding sequence in which acrobatic divers descend from above; a romantic dance across the water’s shining surface; an unnerving drop from 80 feet up (higher even than the high-dive at O); and a finale featuring dozens of athletic performers catapulting from a rising island of cliffs and waterfalls.
Le Rêve was fantastic and will forever be a powerful part of the history and legacy of Las Vegas entertainment. The cast and crew of approximately 275 people should be recognized and honored for their contribution to that legacy.