Thursday, April 12, 2012 | 2 a.m.
For Matt Scherbring, singing frogs and giant heads are just a part of his regular workday.
As production manager at the Wynn Las Vegas, Scherbring oversees the multimedia production of “Lake of Dreams,” a magical, musical, mechanized fairy tale that lasts only about 10 minutes but unfailingly leaves visitors applauding. What those delighted individuals may not comprehend, though, is the size and scope of Scherbring’s digs underneath the lake and behind the waterfall, where the magic is made.
The flowers that sway in a ballet performance are each 30 feet wide. Seven video projectors cast images of dancers on the waterfall and give life to a giant steel-and-fiberglass head that rises from underneath the lake, singing, talking and making faces at the audience amid music piped through about 100 exterior speakers. The singing frog? It’s 30 feet tall, and it’s backed by a four-story stage rigging that sends up dancing characters, moons and balls of fire every half-hour from sundown to midnight daily.
“The scale of this system is comparable to some parts of a Cirque show,” Scherbring said. “Some people don’t really appreciate the scale of what we do. But when your audience is 200 feet away, it has to be pretty big.”
Under the lake and past the massive waterfall are some 5,000 lights and dozens of giant props to create eight shows a night. There have been some 30,000 performances since the “Lake of Dreams” show opened with the resort in 2005.
A staff of 30 electricians, metal fabricators and mechanical experts works daily to make sure the show goes off flawlessly. But these mechanics pull on wet suits and scuba gear to work underwater, and the electricians must be skillful in rappelling and mountain climbing to keep the lights sparkling from the treetops.
“The people in Las Vegas who are jacks of all trades can find a home here,” Scherbring said.
Each morning, divers check the massive head — 23 feet tall and 27 feet in diameter — that spends more than 23 hours underwater, then slowly rises to peek out for a total of only about 30 minutes each day.
“You would never guess you would find this many wet suits in the middle of the desert,” Scherbring said as he walked past a wall lined with them.
As the clock ticks to the half-hour, a familiar rumble like an engine, heard only from behind the waterfall, out of earshot from the audience, signals the start of a another show. Conditioned to the sound, two workers pull on thick gloves they will use to load and unload props that will be hoisted above the waterfall.
“We all have been around this system so long, we can tell how it’s working by the sounds,” Scherbring said. “If something doesn’t sound right, we know we need to check it out.”
The dancing characters that spring up over the waterfall, along with other props, aren’t just built into the mountain. They must be loaded for each show. Once in place, the show is automated and synchronized with music and video, as the stage crew watches on monitors in the back and listens for something that’s not running smoothly.
The show is unique, even in Vegas.
“The only systems I would say are comparable to this are the volcano at the Mirage, the pirate show at Treasure Island and the fountains at the Bellagio,” Scherbring said. “But even those are not quite the same.”
The attractions mentioned by Scherbring have one common factor: All are at resorts originally designed by Steve Wynn.
Wynn has said he conceived the lake show inside the building carrying his name as a way to make amends for a shortcoming he saw in his design of the Bellagio — putting the spectacular fountain show out front, where people didn’t even have to enter his resort to enjoy it. He also has lamented not building a restaurant overlooking the volcano at his first megaresort, the Mirage.
“Lake of Dreams” satisfies both. People enter the resort, walk past the Atrium, an enchanting lighted forest and garden, before wandering through the Parasol Down lounge and into the Lakeside restaurant for the best seats. Or they can enjoy the show from a balcony on the upper level of the restaurant or in front of the massive windows looking out onto the lake.
With such big dreams riding on the show, the crew is understandably protective of its backstage. No photos were allowed behind the scenes or close-ups of the workings behind the mechanical dancing frog that sings and dances to tunes by Louis Armstrong and Garth Brooks — the latter wearing a giant cowboy hat.
“It’s actually in his contract — no photos backstage,” Sherbring said with a wink and a straight face. “He’s kind of a temperamental frog, but he’s beloved by a lot of people.”
Scherbring is confident there’s no other performer like the frog in Las Vegas.
“If there was another singing frog, or at least as large of a singing frog, I think we’d have gotten a memo about it,” he said.
Each show has a name. Two of the productions, “Jungle Bill” and “Fiesta Fatale,” have been running for all seven years the resort has been open.
“We take a great deal of pride in this system and this show,” Scherbring said. “The size and scope of it is something not everyone gets to see. It really is different in this industry. But to us, it’s just another day at the office.”
With world-class dining, shopping, spas, golf and entertainment, there's no shortage of things to do at Wynn. The resort’s aquatic acrobatic show, “Le Reve—The Dream,” a creation by Cirque Du Soleil veteran Franco Dragone and Steve Wynn, will leave guests wanting more with its breathtaking performances that conjure an imaginary world. The Wynn Esplanade offers a unique shopping experience with stores including Chanel, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Dior, Oscar de la Renta and many more. Tryst is its signature nightclub, offering a secluded lagoon inside the club and spacious dance floor. Blush, the Wynn’s ultra lounge, draws swanky party-goers. Tryst, Wynn’s signature nightclub, is situated along a private lagoon under a 90-foot waterfall and plays host to some of the world’s most renown DJs.