Friday, February 04, 2005

Seeing "O" at the Bellagio

Last night we made it to see the Cirque du Soleil show “O” at the Bellagio. Got home to late to process my pictures, so I thought I’d do a short write-up on the evening first, then post images later.
First off – the Bellagio is probably the ‘classiest’ casino on the strip. Everything about this place is fancy, from the famous dancing fountains out front to the glass flowered ceiling in the lobby to the five star restaurants inside. If you’ve got money to spend, this is the place to blow it on.
Steve Wynn first became involved with Cirque du Soleil back when he was building the Treasure Island in 1992. Wynn liked the group so much he built a theatre into the TI just for them, and the Mystere show at the TI is still going strong. When Wynn built the Bellagio he spent around $95 million for the theatre and production setup. Now that Wynn’s moved on, he is supposedly spending $165 million over at the new Wynn resort for another theatre and new Cirque production. There’s a good Review Journal story on the Cirque du Soleil.
We’ve seen the Mystere show several times, and if you ever make it to Vegas I would highly recommend it. It’s been here over ten years now, and tickets are down to $49, so please try. “O” has only been open a few years. Prices here range from $99 to $149. It used to be sold out for six months in advance, but as time goes on that has eased up. I booked tickets on the Internet. They only list shows a month out, and I only found tickets on the far end. Feeling cheap, I got the $99 tickets, which happened to be the only ones available. Being local, we usually avoid the weekend tourist crowds and try to do things on Wednesday or Thursday.
Arriving at the Bellagio last night we thought we would cheap out and hit the buffet – all casinos in town have a buffet, it’s expected. This one went for $25 per person, average for a big strip place. The buffet was rather small, and not as comprehensive as other places. I was disappointed in the limited choices, but everything was of great quality. My wife hit the seafood section – lots of sushi, a number of shrimp dishes, and big king crab legs. I hit the meat – and found a few things not found at other places. I got to try buffalo sirloin, wild boar ribs and free range turkey. In addition to prime rib and leg of lamb. Fancy stuff, but I would suggest you hit the Rio buffet and less $$ and a lot more choice. But if you’re staying there I guess it’s OK.
Other choices were the fancy restaurants, but those would have run us $100 a head, and we didn’t want to keep looking at our watch with a leave time required. I do want to try the Picasso and Renoir restaurants some day, but when I can take time to enjoy the five-diamond food (I’m a sucker for good food).
We hit the show, and found out that our tickets were probably the last ones available – we were the back row the end seats in the highest balcony. Had something similar in San Diego, when a company I worked for bought us all tickets for an SD Chargers football game. Good tailgate party, but the tickets were the cheapest available, top row, up with the blimp taking pictures. The field was so far away it was like not even being there, but we carried on and partied and had a good time all by ourselves up on the Group W bench.
But “O” was a little different, it’s got the new movie popular ‘stadium’ seating, where each row is higher than the one in front. And even though we were far back we still could see everything very well. And it was a different show for us than for those down below in the expensive seats…
The stage is really a large swimming pool. Built in a circular shape, with an arc of platform out front. The bottom of the pool is made of several sections, each of which can be raised or lowered. So when the show started there was just a large flat dry stage. Then parts of the stage sank down and became wet. During the performance different areas rose up to produce shallow areas, or came above the water’s surface to give a dry stage. When down the pool was pretty deep – there were divers dropping into the water from the ceiling, about fifty feet above the stage level. So it had to be deep enough for them to land in.
Cirque du Soleil shows have always been acrobatic, and this was no exception. During the performance there were large rings and cables and ladders and platforms coming down from the ceiling or floating out from the sides. There were people climbing up, or over, or swinging, or floating, or jumping, or swimming up or walking by or just being there. It was very impressive. A skeleton of a ship flew in, with a dozen people on it. The proceeded to swing and jump and do all sorts of things, and ended up diving twenty feet down into the water and just disappearing (into some underwater exit).
The Cirque shows usually have a clown or two, and this one did also. The clowns wandered through the audience before the show started, and wandered through the performance periodically. The even floated through twice, on the roof of a house sunk in the water complete with smoking chimney and tv antenna.
Being up high we were about even with the top curtain, and most of the activities were straight ahead or below us. We could see the platforms rise and fall under the water. But those down on the lower level had a flat view of the stage, with everything going on in front of them or above. So to them one minute people were walking across a dry stage, the next people were splashing through knee high water and the next an acrobat was diving into the stage from fifty feet above and disappearing in a splash of water. That must be interesting to see from down there, not knowing what to expect. But we could see into the pool, and see things happening under the surface. And see the shapes of a dozen black suited scuba divers down there helping the performers, and attaching rings and ropes and setting up tables and stuff.
The show was typical Cirque randomness – with different groups of actors walking or running by, different things swinging in, stuff floating by, boats floating over the water, wooden horses with riders coming down from the sky. A crowd of twenty people might come on stage from different directions, start performing acrobatics, throwing each other across stage, and then just have the stage sink and all of them would just disappear into the water. At one point there were three big swings set up on different areas of the stage. Four people would be on each one, swinging like crazy, and then the front one on each would fly twenty feet in the air to land in the water on the section of stage that had sunk down.
It was amazing. An overloading two hours.
I was thoroughly impressed. It was too dark for pictures most of the time. The two or three I took might not come out (we’ll see tomorrow when I have time to look at them). But I would highly recommend it. I’ll probably wait a while, and then try to go down to the ticket office and score some bottom level seats (yea, it’s probably worth the $149 each) and go back to see it from a different angle.
We then wandered around the casino, watching people at the $100 minimum blackjack table betting piles of chips. Busy for a Thursday night. The Bellagio opened a new tower a few weeks ago, with a big spa area and new convention center. The conservatory was full of decorations for Chinese New Year. Some four-star pastry chef had a new patisserie in the spa tower area – gelato and the fanciest little pastries you could imagine. But we were full from the buffet, and will be back to try that stuff another day.

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