CirqueTech – Performance Spaces: Alegría at Beau Rivage

From May 20, 1999 until October 2, 2000 Cirque du Soleil found a home at the Beau Rivage casino-resort on the Gulf Coast in Biloxi, Mississippi, “a place where genuine Southern hospitality and charm go hand in hand with meticulous service.” The Beau Rivage was Steve Wynn’s then-newest resort (now held by MGM/Mirage) and with its opening on March 16, 1999 came another collaborative effort between Wynn and Cirque du Soleil. Within this $685 Million (USD) resort hid a 1,552 seat theater reflecting the “warm welcome inspired by the climate of Southern France,” and it became the premiere showplace for Cirque du Soleil’s Alegría for over a year.

For those who bore its splendor, the venue’s design was simple and elegant, featuring a brilliant mélange of color. The ceiling was a vibrant shade of blue, representing the skies of the village upon which Alegría played; the walls were adorned in tones of reds and oranges, intended as a glorious sunrise and sunset; the seats a sandy yellow, an allegory for the beaches of the Gulf Coast upon which the Beau Rivage was founded; and the carpets a dark blue, reminiscent of a shade Henri Matisse used in his paintings – an artist from which the designers drew their inspiration. Accompanying is a bright-yellow ceiling mural – a 15,000 square-foot frieze crafted by Sky Art of Colorado, who also designed the ceiling mural for Mystère in Las Vegas – for the sun.

Besides the wonderfully adorned space, the 52,000 square-foot Beau Rivage Theater incorporated a no-proscenium arch design quite similar to its Mystère counterpart. And like the Treasure Island Theater, the Beau Rivage Theater also had no obstructive poles, providing a limitless viewpoint to all its spectators in its 270-degree seating arrangement. But I bet you didn’t know that the seats were a little cozier than those found with its Las Vegas counterparts; the span from one arm chare to the next, which is 42-inches at Mystère and «O», was only 39-inches at Alegría!

The set and stage retained its familiar square-ish form, complete with the Fast Track built into the floor. Overhead an enormous dome that for designer Michel Crête signifies “a sign of imposing power,” which reflects the theme of the show – an allegory about power; who has it and who does not. Cirque explained the symbolic nature of the set on their website in 1996, which stated: “The set was built to express the idea of a changing world. The Cirque du Soleil Theatre has been transformed into the King’s court. An enormous dome overhangs the stage, which is surrounded by diamond-shaped paving stones, and protects the occupants of the palace as if they were in a fortified castle. Four huge masts support the dome, bringing to mind the heavy chains of a drawbridge. Two spiral staircases encircle the ring and enable the characters to sneak in and out… A raised platform serves as the minstrels’ balcony. There they set up their musical instruments and look haughtily down on the activities of the world below.”

On the technical side, the lighting system included 900 ETC Sensor dimmers (10 racks of 90), two Strand 550i consoles, 425 ETC Source Four ellipsoidals, 80 Wybron Coloram II scrollers, and 10 Clay Paky Stage Zoom luminaries. Production Arts/PRG installed the Ethernet hub that ran the enormous rig. The sound system included a Midas XL3 console, 67 JBL 4892 and 4893 speakers, 45 JBL amplifiers (MP A600s and 1100s,) JBL DSC 260 & 280 processing equalizers, and 10 Klark Teknik DN3600 graphic equalizers.

Live Design reported that the total cost of the theater was $19.4 million USD, with $4 million alone dedicated to technical equipment. Perhaps some of that money went to the theater’s ornamented display of the show’s name – right above the door. On October 2, 2000, Alegría packed up its troubles and prepared for a journey to a continent it had never before played – Australia. Today, the “Beau Rivage Theater” has survived the devastation that Hurricane Katrina brought to it in the summer of 2005 and has been completely renovated for more standard fare – small musical productions, headlines and comedy acts. While the theater no longer appears as it did when Alegría played there, the production did have one major milestone occur at the Beau Rivage – on Thursday, March 23, 2000 at 8:00pm, Alegría celebrated its 2000th performance.

{Sources: Live Design, Cirque du Soleil, Beau Rivage}

“Performance Spaces: Alegría at Beau Rivage” is an updated excerpt from a previously presented article series entitled “The Houses of Cirque,” published by the Fascination Newsletter in three parts on February, June and November 2003.