While a classic Las Vegas show announced it was not returning to the stage, another production is preparing for the day when local and state officials give entertainers the go-ahead to resume.
The permanent closure of "Le Reve" at Wynn, announced Aug. 14, was the latest gut punch to the live entertainment industry on the Strip, struggling with uncertainty amid the pandemic. But work at the "Absinthe" tent at Caesars Palace provides a ray of hope.
"Le Reve," the water-based extravaganza that opened in May 2005, was to have celebrated its 7,000th show this year. The Southern Nevada Concierge Association voted it Best Production Show in Las Vegas for a record nine consecutive years. Its cast and crew of 275, sidelined since March, are officially out of work.
"As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent physical distancing requirements for which an end date cannot be predicted but are necessary to keep our guests safe, we have been forced to close," a statement released by Le Reve read.
Meanwhile, Spiegelworld, producers of "Absinthe" at Caesars Palace among other bawdy shows, is preparing for a safe return.
Workers are deep-cleaning Spiegelworld venues, reconfiguring them for smaller crowds. A new BiPolar Ionization Air Purification System was installed in the "Absinthe" tent's HVAC system, designed to reduce airborne contaminants and maximize the amount of fresh air.
Rowed seating, which could previously accommodate more than 600 guests, has been removed. The venue now features socially distanced cabaret seating for 220 patrons with tables for two to five people per party.
"We have put a lot of work into planning for reopening for our audiences, performers and staff, with safety being our top priority," said Ross Mollison, Spiegelworld's founder. "With many enhanced precautions and procedures in place, we believe we are uniquely positioned to present our same raunchy and hilarious shows in a way that should make everybody involved comfortable."
A full-time infection mitigation manager is consulting with health experts and casino partners to create a comprehensive handbook and health and safety protocols, a company spokesman said.
Crews work on the "Absinthe" tent at Caesars Palace, preparing for the day when live ticketed entertainment can resume in Las Vegas. Photo Credit: Spiegelworld
In addition to new seating configurations at "Absinthe," "Atomic Saloon Show" at the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian Resort and "Opium" at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Spiegelworld venues will be cleaned and sanitized before and after every performance. Guests will be required to undergo touchless temperature screenings before entering, and table service will be provided during the show to eliminate queues at venue bars.
"I have been so proud of the entire Spiegelworld crew," Mollison said. "They have faced the past few months with good humor and support for each other. Safety and health are paramount, but fun is what we are all craving and what we know Las Vegas can deliver. We are ready and waiting for the word to get back to doing what we love."
While Mollison and Spiegelworld project some optimism, entertainment giant Cirque du Soleil has another layer of uncertainty. The company is progressing through court-supervised restructuring after filing for bankruptcy protection in June. The fate of its seven Vegas productions (including "Blue Man Group") remains up in the air. About 3,500 employees were laid off, but its Las Vegas casts and crews are reportedly still on temporary furlough, allowing the company to make a quick return to the stage when the time comes.
Magician and Las Vegas resident Penn Jillette -- who along with his partner, Teller, has performed at the still-shuttered Rio since 2001 may have said it best when he told Fox News earlier this summer: "We all want this virus to be over. We all want the world to go back. We all want the economy to be great. But wanting and grabbing are two different things. My pathological desire to be onstage does not trump my desire to do everything I can to keep people safe."