MGM Grand spectacular comes with $165 mil pricetag

LAS VEGAS — “KA,” the latest creation from Cirque du Soleil, opens Thursday night at the MGM Grand and, instead of hiding rumors about its record $165 million pricetag, Cirque prexy-chief operating officer Daniel Lamarre proudly describes it as “not only the most expensive show in North America, but surely on planet Earth.”

Helmed by Quebec filmmaker and director Robert Lepage, the spectacle uses 75 performers, eight musicians and a running crew of 105 technicians. (Fifty additional technicians are required for the daytime maintenance between shows.)

Described as a combination of “martial arts, acrobatics, puppetry, interactive video projections and pyrotechnics,” “KA” is the first Cirque show to feature an actual storyline, the story of imperial twins who “embark on a dangerous journey to fulfill their destinies.”

Much pre-show publicity has focused on the technical aspects of the show. Lepage had the theater (once home to “FX,” starring Michael Crawford) totally gutted, ripping out the stage floor entirely and replacing it with a series of floating ones, each weighing close to 50 tons.

The props department created more than 500 large items, including 10 larger-than-life puppets including an 80-feet-long coral snake and a crab so complex it took 1,300 man-hours to create.

There are 215 costumes, which are all duplicated because of the two shows nightly. These took a crew of 70 Montreal craftsmen over 35,000 hours to create.

The theater’s sound system weighs close to 44,000 pounds, and each of the 2,000 seats in the auditorium has two speakers built into the headrest to allow precise targeting of sound effects.

With all this expense, it’s a good thing “KA” is capable of grossing $150 million a year and that Lamarre is predicting “95% capacity for the first 12 months — and that’s a conservative guess.”

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