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August 21, 2014

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Changes for ‘Le Reve’ as Steve Wynn moves forward with ‘Funhouse’ plans

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Bryan Schnitzer

Katherine Jenkins, Donald Driver, Cheryl Burke, Peta Murgatroyd and Maksim Chmerkovskiy at Surrender and Encore Beach Club in the Encore on Friday, June 29, 2012.

'Le Reve - the Dream' at Wynn

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Grammy Award-winning DJ Afrojack with "Le Reve -- the Dream" cast members at the Wynn.

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Martha Stewart, second from left, with cast members of "Le Reve -- The Dream" at Wynn Las Vegas.

Even though Steve Wynn’s theatrical spectacular “Le Reve — the Dream” has recently celebrated its eighth anniversary and 3,000th performance, he’s still refreshing it constantly and adding elements to keep it ahead of his rivals, while “Dancing With the Stars” hunk Maksim Chmerkovskiy has tweaked dance routines for the in-the-round water spectacle.

I saw it more than a year ago and didn’t think it could be improved. Critics hailed it as “jaw-dropping” and, for three consecutive years, the Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association voted it the “Best Production Show in Las Vegas.” Steve, though, knew that he could make it better for the 1,600 audience members at shows.

There are 91 performers from 17 countries, including the musicians in the twice-nightly show supported by 138 technical staff. The cast swims and dances in a technical marvel. The pool is 68 feet wide, more than 26 feet deep, with 20 miles of underwater lighting cables and kept at 89 degrees. The highest dive is an 80-foot drop, and 12 underwater infrared cameras monitor their safety.

When I went back again recently to check up on additions and changes, I noted new kaleidoscope lighting, aerial ballet choreography and a hand-to-hand balancing act added to splash sequences. Additionally, a winter scene has been added to the bell-rope act; magic has been added for the tuxedo-clad clowns in the new bird act; and there’s new music for the sphere sequence.

No wonder there’s been increased celebrity interest with its new music and 2,000 costumes, including the 66 pairs of red shoes that need to be repainted and re-glued every day. More celebrities have visited the first six months of this year than any other year, among them Martha Stewart, Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper, Colin Farrell, Tony Orlando, Shawn Johnson, Katherine Webb and star chefs Bobby Flay, Scott Conant and Geoffrey Zakarian, who shot a photo feature there for Esquire.

It was in May 2005 that Steve premiered his $100-million-plus spectacular, and ever since he’s spent a fortune with up-to-date additions and changes to keep it ahead of the curve.

Louanne Madorma, the casting director and director of artistic implementation, told me: “It’s all brand new and extraordinary, and what’s more incredible is that going into its ninth year, Steve has even more plans. Even bigger things are brewing that nobody else is doing anywhere in the world. This winter, we’ll add rope disciplines to the new acrobatic adagios we’ve incorporated. The new music for the spell-sphere sequences really threads the unique story.

“He wanted new visuals, a new take not done in any other water show anywhere in the world. And since we have so many extraordinary artists, they also wanted to keep it new, exciting and cutting edge. They are as enthusiastic as he is about the changes.”

Louanne told me that Maks tweaked and expanded the dancing tableaus: “It’s now more of a marriage between the ballroom dancing and the contemporary dancers with the best of each disciplines, and half of the dancers also took the rigorous swim tests because it pushes their water-dancing skills even farther.”

It’s probably easier for the dancers to waltz on the moon than tango in the gravity of the water. They say that it’s 50 percent more difficult than normal dancing, and they have to be careful that their heels aren’t turned if caught in the tiny rubber holes through which water escapes.

“They have to keep the knee and ankle in alignment,” said Louanne. “Otherwise, they can twist both very quickly. They make it look so easy, but believe me the man is helping his partner turn to avoid resistance and possible injury.” “Le Reve” trainers give out 20,000 pounds of ice and 12,000 Ibuprofen pills every 300 shows to help cope with bumps, bruises, strains and aching muscles.

Although he juggles business from as far afield as Macau to Massachusetts, Steve still sits in on rehearsals, talks with performers and selects new costumes. Louanne told me: “He’s always said ‘Le Reve’ has to remain beautiful because it’s a jewel in a crown. It’s a brand unto itself. We are a company of collaborators because everybody comes forward with new and exciting ideas.

“We are unlike any other show because we are Wynn. I love ‘Le Reve’ because it’s a theatrical, artistic and acrobatic spectacular with a relatable story line.”

It’s no secret that Steve has a great affection for the art of magic. He had Israeli magician Shimshi teach the clowns three magic tricks, which now fit into the dream world of “Le Reve.” And real magic, not created magic, is very much an underlying theme of Steve’s hopes for his new project “Funhouse.”

“He’s been casting in Europe, “ I was reliably told. “He wants it to succeed. He wants to create something that has never been done before. He keeps telling those involved to go back to his original concept of making the impossible possible — not as magic itself but as reality so that it’s totally unbelievable.

“It’s not there yet, but there’s definite progress. Nobody knows — only Steve — if it will come to fruition the way he envisioned. But he’s investing a lot of money to see if it can be done. There’s no timeline, no deadline, just his desire to create something that has never been produced before.”

Last November, I first reported on his under-wraps “Funhouse.” Steve said then: “It’s never been thought of before; it’s never been seen before. It’s totally unique and new. The idea is life can be joyful, it can be sad, it can be happy, it can be frightening. Although we would never frighten anybody; that wouldn’t be polite.

“I wanted to capture the one thing about life that’s for sure, and that is things are never what they first appear to be. We’re making everything so that it never appears to be what you think it is. We have a format in place where things start off to be one thing and then become another. By the time we get 10 minutes into the show, the audience will be wondering what could be next.

“The key to understand is nothing is as it appears to be. This would not be Cirque or a restatement of anything that’s gone before. It would be a new version of really great theater spectacle.” The full interview was posted Nov. 19.

My source told me: “If anybody can pull it off, it will be Steve. He’s the only guy in the world who would think it, develop it, prove it and then bring it to life.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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