Cirque to go dark in Vegas for One Night for One Drop

It’s just for one night, but dozens of Cirque performers, stagehands and celebrity performers are hustling to put on a theatrical production to raise money for Cirque du Soleil’s charitable foundation, One Drop.

On March 21, all of Cirque’s resident shows on the Las Vegas Strip will go dark while some 85 Cirque performers and musicians, 100 stagehands  and more than a dozen celebrities from outside Cirque descend on the “Michael Jackson ONE” stage to perform a show described as straying from Cirque’s traditional style.

Last year’s inaugural event, One Night for One Drop, raised $5.4 million, and Cirque hopes to meet or exceed that amount this year, said Jerry Nadal, Cirque’s senior vice president of resident shows worldwide.

Rehearsal of an act from the 2014 One Night for One Drop event at the Michael Jackson ONE Theater in Mandalay Bay. Photo by Nicole Lucht

That $5.4 million constitutes the revenue Cirque brings in with its Las Vegas shows in just one week, Nadal said. With the funds raised with ticket sales and the silent auction, “we want to hit that target or exceed it and I think we will,” he said.

Nadal said the Cirque performers and stagehands participating in the One Drop event are doing so by working around their performance schedules. They aren’t taking any nights off from their regular shows.

“It’s a production imagined by Cirque to benefit One Drop,” Nadal said.  “It’s amazing to see this come together because they are working from eight in the morning to one in the afternoon, around the schedule of the Michael Jackson show (we’re on their stage) and then they work until midnight, until three or four in the morning. … Everybody participates. We use all of our resources.”

But don’t expect to see a traditional Cirque production, Nadal said.

One Night for One Drop creator and director Mukhtar Mukhtar originally announced the vision for this year’s show during Cirque Week in November 2013. Since then, the One Night show has transformed into a show with more performers volunteering than he expected.

Everyone needed for the show — performers, stagehands, backstage technicians, celebrities — have been brought on, and four of the acts are already finished, Mukhtar said. With seven weeks until the performance, he said the show is on track.

Mukhtar said the show follows a character in a third world country — he experiences a lack of water and sees that there’s a problem and he needs to find what the problem is. To do this, he goes on a journey where he collects drops of water to bring back to his land. The show has four chapters: the character’s experience with lack of access to water; his travels to a city where he discovers its technology might be the cause of his land’s lack of water; the oasis, where he hopefully finds the water source he’s been looking for; and, the future of our planet, which is the enduring question.

“To see (performers) really light up and support that (vision) fully, it’s an amazing thing,” Mukhtar said. “It’s stunning. Usually people do things for money … but people are really supporting this project.”

Mukhtar said he sought a contemporary feel with the music used in the show. Using both Cirque musicians and outside artists, such as Canadian vocalists The Tenors, who performed their scene during a media rehearsal event Jan. 30 in the “Michael Jackson ONE” Theater.

Mukhtar, who was a choreographer in last year’s One Night show, said the show will be a success if people get the message of the show — and of the One Drop organization.

“What will make this show a success is if everyone who watches this show says, ‘Wow, I really got touched by the show. I really need to help out and do something about (water accessibility).’

“They see the cause, see the message we’re trying to push out that water is not something we should take for granted. … It’s a natural thing for a lot of people and I think that’s where the problem lies.”

The One Night for One Drop performs at 7:30 p.m. March 21 at the “Michael Jackson ONE” Theater in Mandalay Bay. Tickets start at $225.