Mystère by Cirque du Soleil
At a Glance
What is it?
An evocative, moving, eye-popping Cirque du Soleil show featuring aerialists, acrobatics, avant-garde theater pieces, comedy, drama, and more.
Where is it?
In a custom-built theater at Treasure Island on the Center Strip.
Is it worth the cost?
Every penny and then some.
Why should I see this show?
Because it is still the best of the Cirque shows in town and one of the best shows in town period.
What else do I need to know?
Although older kids may enjoy it, some of it could be too intense for younger viewers.
What’s the bottom line?
Buy your tickets right now.
It’s hard to imagine, but 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the debut of Mystère, the Cirque du Soleil production at Treasure Island that virtually overnight changed the face of Las Vegas entertainment and laid the groundwork for almost every show that followed it, whether it was produced by Cirque or not.
Mystère has always been the kind of show that you could see over and over again and it never lost its ability to wow. But after nearly 20 years, a refresh was in order and new acts have been introduced into the show. The changes are subtle and seamless, allowing the production to keep all of the things that made it a fan favorite for the past two decades while updating it just enough to make it feel new again.
Adequately describing a show like Mystère is like trying to explain that beautiful dream you had last night. It’s so powerful that it stays with you long after it’s over but as soon as you start to put it into words you realize you can’t even come close to capturing the full effect. Forgive me in advance for even trying.
The show is a broad mixture of jaw-dropping circus style acrobatics and gymnastics, fantastical avant-garde theater style dance and production numbers, and some laugh-out-loud comic relief. It’s all wrapped up in an almost hallucinatory package of special effects fog, soaring (and descending) hydraulic staging, and ethereal music all of which only reinforces the dreamlike quality of the production.
Get there early so you can appreciate the majestic stage and the antics that happen on it before the show. Just be warned that if you see a crazed looking guy in a suit lit by a spotlight headed in your direction as you’re trying to find your seat you may want to duck in a corner unless you want to become a part of the pre-show entertainment. This is Cirque’s version of a clown, albeit one without floppy feet and a big red nose, who teases and taunts the arriving guests before and during the production.
The show proper opens with the trademark Cirque aesthetic – a “where to look now?” blend of acrobats descending from the rafters, baby carriages rolling across the stage, sleekly costumed dancers and actors throughout the theater, an adult “baby” bouncing a big red ball and sucking on a bottle, a gibberish speaking emcee of sorts and his giant ostrich-like puppet, an adult “toddler” in her pajamas looking for her toy snail… again, this is where words fail. It sounds odd and in many ways it is, but it’s a visual feast that will have you wishing they would rewind and do it all again so you can catch the pieces you missed while you were looking at something else.
Does it all have some sort of deeper meaning? If it does, far be it from me to try to tell you what it is. That’s one of the things I most deeply love about this show. If you want to sit back and enjoy the acrobatics, dance, and comedy you can take the production at face value and still be fulfilled. If, however, you want to search for a subtext about the meaning of life, death, fulfillment, passion, and/or the human condition you can do so and find your own definitions. They may not be the same as the guy sitting next to you but that’s okay. That’s fantastic, actually.
An example of a circus style act is a good example of this “take from it what you want” mandate. An aerialist/acrobat descends from the ceiling in an aluminum framed cube, twirling it and himself high above the stage. He is lowered to the floor where the heavily costumed cast members help him remove his “cage” and he goes on a soaring flight via a bungee style cord around the theater. At the end the man is standing on the stage, spinning the giant cube in his hand as the theater lights gleam off the metal edges capturing a rainbow of color.
Is it a commentary on taking control of your life? Escaping your own “cage” and flying high, showing that we are ultimately in control of the things that imprison us spiritually and emotionally? Sure, why not? Or it’s a really great circus act. Either way, if the moment where the acrobat runs and jumps and literally flies out over the audience doesn’t cause you to gasp at least a little, you really should have your pulse checked. For me it was the definition of breath-taking no matter how many times I have seen it.
Other visually and physically stunning acts follow: a pair of men act as “living sculpture,” slowly and elegantly balancing themselves and each other in a virtuoso level performance that will either leave you emotionally drained or wanting to join a gym (or perhaps both); a company of acrobats climb poles, jumping, posing, and leaping around on them as assuredly as monkeys in trees, creating more than one “how can any human being possibly do that?” moment; a group of gymnasts uses a teeter-totter and giant trampolines as their spectacle sized playground; and a stage full of pounding, tribal drummers brings the whole thing to an auditory, visual, and emotional crescendo.
New acts include a solo “silk” artist who tumbles and twirls on long drapes hanging from the ceiling and a revised trapeze closing number that amps up the drama with some seemingly impossible stunts.
My favorite piece by far is the set with six aerialists on swings and bungee cords high above the audience. Costumed in sleek body suits festooned with glittering streamers they tumble, spin, and soar in a glorious evocation of flying freedom that still makes me catch my breath. It is beauty brought to life.
There’s so much more to the show than even what I’ve described here but to catalogue it all is not only virtually impossible but unnecessary. I’m one of those who sees Mystère as more than just a sum of its extraordinary parts, finding inspiration and enrichment in my personal interpretation of what it all means. How you choose to interpret the show is up to you but whether it leaves you moved to the point of speechlessness or simply blows you away by the sheer spectacle of it all, it is an experience that you will not forget and absolutely should not miss on your next trip to Las Vegas, whether you’ve seen it before or not.
Here’s to the next 20 years.