ONOD 5: “We want to bring back the blood, sweat and tears”

The new “One Night for One Drop” benefit performance in March from Cirque du Soleil promises to be radically different than the previous four one-night-only productions that have raised millions of dollars for the water charity One Drop Foundation. Husband-and-wife creators Nicky and Laetitia Dewhurst, working alongside director Krista Monson, the creator of the first “One Drop,” promise that it will be “more dangerous and daring” than ever before.

“We’re actually going smaller than year one as in smaller cast, smaller theater. This will be more about the individual talent of circus artists and performers. We want to bring back the blood, sweat and tears. We want the audience to really feel what it is to be a performer, and because we’re going back in time, we can go back to the traditional circus where the acts were a little more risky as in a danger aspect to the show. A little more jaw-dropping, much smaller, more intimate and thus more dangerous,” Laetitia said.

On Monday, the trio make the final cut of just 60 performers who will appear in their production. Auditions ended last Monday, and 16 weeks of rehearsals begin Tuesday as tickets go on sale for the March 3 show at “Zumanity” Theater in New York-New York. The tax-deductible VIP tickets are $1,500 for the show and post-show extravaganza with performances and Cirque-themed festivities. Show-only tickets start at $100.

Go to Onedrop.org/onenight or call 1-844-33-WATER. Proceeds benefit One Drop’s global-water initiatives, with a portion locally benefiting our Springs Preserve. “It will be a little more dangerous,” Laetitia continued. “We’re really pushing the boundaries in the sense that we’re looking at the planet as a whole. I know that the charity is about water, but if it wasn’t for the planet, we wouldn’t have water.

“We’re trying to look at the broader issues of what’s going on with the planet right now. The previous four shows have all focused on the search for water. There’s no searching for water this time around. We wanted to make this show very different from the ones in the previous years but still focus on the broader issues with the planet rather than draw attention to the one particular subject.”

We talked as auditions from dozens of volunteer Cirque show performers and artists from our Las Vegas community ended. Along with Las Vegas Review-Journal photographer Jason Ogulnik’s rehearsal photo gallery, we have an exclusive inside look with the new “One Drop” producers. For the first time, dancers from our Nevada Ballet Theatre will perform onstage with Cirque.


Laetitia revealed: “Basically we have two main characters. One represents mankind and the other represents Earth. Man treats Earth really poorly throughout the whole show. The metaphor throughout the show is the damage we’re doing to the planet we call home. We’re doing it with characters rather than actual physical things and visuals. We have reached out to guest stars and singers, and we’re in conversation with a couple of solo artists. This year we really bring them into the show as a real part of it as actual characters.”

The husband-and-wife team who perform in “Zumanity” submitted a similar idea for this year’s show performed at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts last spring. Their hope to present extraordinary aerial excitement couldn’t be achieved there, so Cirque officials who had long wanted to use the “Zumanity” Theater for “One Drop” decided that the fifth production would be there. That meant the duo had to redesign their production for the smaller-scale theater.

“It let us go back farther in time with more of a cabaret vaudeville show, so it’s completely different to what we envisioned at The Smith Center and a completely different concept from past productions,” said Nicky. “(Cirque founder) Guy Laliberte had always wanted to use the ‘Zumanity’ Theater for ‘One Drop.’ He doesn’t know anything about the show until the night we present it. He only knows that we’re directing it.”

Laetitia added: “We know the theater. I was literally born here. I’ve been with ‘Zumanity’ since it opened. The roof wasn’t even on when I first came here. I was an original dancer on straps and pole, and now I back up the clown character played by my husband. We thought that we knew the theater from performing here nightly, but we’ve discovered a lot more. We’ve had a lot of meetings in the lighting booths, and as artists we never really had to go there.

“We’re really going backstage. We know every nook and cranny in the theater, how it works, and it works perfectly for our ‘One Night’ vision. There was a toss-up between the ‘Mystere’ Theater, and we prayed for this one for our concept because of the intimacy, and it’s such a stunning showroom. It’s the smallest of all the Cirque theaters on the Strip, but it’s what we wanted originally.

“After The Smith Center production this year, there was talk of using a circus tent, but they wound up giving us the choice of the ‘Zumanity’ or ‘Mystere’ theaters, and we pushed for ‘Zumanity.’ It’s a beautiful theater, and for our concept this fits beautifully. We would have had to make the ‘Mystere’ Theater more intimate somehow.”

I pushed them to reveal at least one dangerous aspect of the new production. “We have an act that does straps but not holding on with their hands,” said Laetitia. “They hold on by their teeth. She holds him, a 130-pound guy, with her teeth. That’s pretty intense. They’re from Uzbekistan, friends of friends of ours, and they sent us the act and said they’d love to be part of the show.

“At first you think it’s a normal strap act, but then it just gets crazier and crazier and crazier. They will be one of our guest performers. She holds him in her teeth, and he hangs and flies and does a bunch of strength moves with her holding him in her teeth. We have to keep their name secret for now, but they illustrate what we’re transforming our ‘Zumanity’ Theater into: A nonstop traditional circus. We’re physically transforming the theater into a ‘broken’ big top.

“The show is very surreal, like a dream where our character goes back in time, a little like the story of ‘A Christmas Carol’ with Scrooge where he goes back in time. They can’t see him, but he can see himself and he sees the mistakes he’s made and how he treated people. It underscores how we treat Earth. If we could go back in time, what would we do differently? Our two main characters are the two ringmasters, one old and one younger.”


Laetitia confirmed my earlier exclusive that her father-in-law, Nicky’s 84-year-old dad, Brian Dewhurst, the clown Brian Le Petit in “Mystere” at T.I., will play the older ringmaster: “He will go back in time to see his younger self in the circus. Brian began his 50-plus-year circus career when he joined the circus at age 13. The younger ringmaster will be played by Lorenzo Pisoni, who was the original pink character in ‘Mystere’ that my husband also played.”

Nicky said: “We’ve all had a long history with Cirque, so we wanted that element brought in because this will be the fifth anniversary of the ‘One Drop’ shows and the 10th anniversary of the One Drop Foundation launched by Guy in October 2007. (The Cirque and One Drop founder personally pledged a $100 million donation over 25 years.)”

“So in the shattered big top, the older ringmaster gets taken back like the Ghost of Christmas Past,” Nicky continued. “He gets to see his younger self and how he behaved and how he screwed up Earth. That’s the message to everybody: Take care what’s in front of you and realize the beauty of what you have.

“Last year we had 120 performers, but in making this production more intimate, we have cut it in half and will have about 60 performers. As there’s not a lot of money involved in a one-night-only show, we wanted to give the designers an opportunity to really focus on the production. They have wonderful ideas, but it becomes difficult financially, so the whole cast throughout the whole show will wear the same costume, but there’s more detail in those costumes.

“A lot of acts from around the world have submitted videos, and we had 50 more volunteers than we needed from Cirque wanting to be in the show. There’s a lot of interest this year already.

They were excited that it was at ‘Zumanity’ Theater, too, because it is such an intimate theater. You want to give the opportunity to as many Cirque performers as you can, but we wanted to reach out to the Las Vegas community, so we’re striking the right balance now that our audition process has ended.


“The ballerinas will be a living, breathing, working part of the time machine inside it as the cogs and wheels and springs. They are more fairies than ballerinas because Cirque isn’t ballerina-driven. It’s acrobatic character performance-driven.” Krista summed up: “Nicky and Laetitia’s concept is fantastic. Each of the dancers will have his or her own language as opposed to a corps ballet.

“We’ll actually have a couple of ‘human’ animals in the circus and many visuals of animals. Our new production goes back in time with a time machine from the influence of Charles Dickens, and the acts are dangerous and very daring. We’re going to really focus on that individual artist and bring the focus to them.”

Nicky explained: “So much of what we do sometimes gets lost if there’s something else happening onstage. We want to try to reintroduce the focus on the performer. You see the beads of sweat. You see the tension as they fly. You see that energy that they’re really putting into the concentration.

“As much as Cirque is wonderful and we love the shows, the massive spectacles, our side of the intensity does not always show itself. Our ‘One Drop’ audience will experience that close up; they won’t miss a thing. We’ll know the performers a lot more than we have in previous shows. That’s why this ‘Zumanity’ Theater works so well. It can only really work in this theater.”

{ SOURCE: Robin Leach, LVRJ | https://goo.gl/CvYASJ }