There's a moment in "Le Reve -- The Dream" at Wynn Las Vegas when a performer is lifted more than 80 feet above the watery stage. He disappears into a wide hole in the ceiling, tufts of fog appearing, all eyes in the theater directed above, a hushed anticipation in the air. He falls feet first, triggering a collective gasp from the audience, and then hits the water with a satisfying slap.
He surfaces unscathed, having achieved just one of the many athletic and artistic triumphs that make up the production. Dancers, divers, synchronized swimmers, acrobats, aerialists and other artists fill the theater-in-the-round. The stage alternates from a solid floor to just inches of water to a 22-foot-deep pool, accommodating all of the action.
Lively fountains and bursts of fire punctuate the story of the beautiful heroine, the Dreamer, who encounters True Love and Dark Passion on a surreal adventure. Majestic music, audacious athleticism, captivating artistry and wondrous choreography fill the 90-minute show.
There are playful bits with humor, quiet moments with just a solo performer and spectacles with dozens of performers reveling in the water, onstage and in the air.
"Le Reve," which opened in May 2005, will likely celebrate its 7,000th performance this year. More than 6 million guests have seen the production.
"It takes you on a journey," said Erika Tomlinson, who plays the Dreamer. "Most shows are just pure entertainment, but they don't necessarily take you through a whole realm of emotions. 'Le Reve' does that from the moment you walk in and see the theater-in-the-round. It sets up a different atmosphere, because you quickly realize that you're going to be immersed in the show and not just watching it."
Tomlinson has been with the production since 2014. The unique water aspects of "Le Reve" presented challenges to the dancer at first.
"All of a sudden, I got put into all of these elements," she said. "Add the water. Add walking through the water and looking graceful. Now you're dancing on a stage that's approximately two-and-a-half-feet wide with a partner. Don't fall into the water! Then there's learning how to do all the scuba catches where you're going to have to jump in and disappear to the audience. You have to hook up with your diver and get your air so that you can breathe and then they swim you to your next entrance. That's the short list of it."
Louanne Madorma, the production's director of casting and artistic implementation for 14 years, has built a steady pipeline of performers by developing close relationships with college coaches, athletic federation officials and even competition judges. She doesn't directly recruit, since many youngsters are on track to be on national teams and Olympic athletes.
"I'm building friendships because we can treat them like family members," Madorma said. "I get to know the kids, I get to know their parents and they get to know what to expect in Las Vegas. And I'm confident that when they come into 'Le Reve,' they're integrating into a family feel. We're very selective not only about the ability of the athlete but their personality, how they're going to integrate into Las Vegas and how they're going to integrate into 92 other cast members."
Madorma and the rest of "Le Reve" coaching team help often singularly focused competitors become true performers who collaborate with other artists and adapt to the watery environment.
About a dozen cast members are replaced each year. The youngest current cast member is 20; the oldest is 51. More than 17 countries are represented, and there are six former Olympians.
"I'm so proud of the artistic integrity of the show," Madorma said. "I love that the show is thought-provoking and beautiful but can be offered to everybody. It's not an adult show, per se. It's a show that touches everyone, and it touches everybody differently. Everybody walks away taking their own their own story and their own kind of emotional journey after seeing the show."
The love story at the show's core is universally relatable, she said. "Whether someone has experienced a love story like this or hopes to, it reflects all of the aspects of a love story. There is struggle: There is what we call true love, pure love. And then there is the passion for the impulsive, the dangling of the fruit and everything that goes with it."
In addition to regular seating, there are Dream and Dinner packages and special seating with TV monitors showing behind-the-scenes underwater and overhead action. The Diver's Dream package includes an underwater vantage point, a backstage tour and a scuba-training session. See www.wynnlasvegas.com/entertainment for information and tickets.