NEW YORK >> Cirque du Soleil is planning a brand new, eye-popping show on the Las Vegas Strip this spring that appropriately flips its typical script.
“Mad Apple” will feature stand-up comedians, close-up magic and a live band playing pop music onstage alongside Cirque’s famous acrobats in a new hybrid form of live entertainment.
The show — inspired by New York City’s eclectic nightlife of jazz cubs, street buskers, comedy shows and live music — will replace “Zumanity” at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in May on the Las Vegas Strip.
“We really wanted to do something joyous and something celebratory,” veteran producer Simon Painter told The Associated Press ahead of today’s unveiling. “It’s basically a giant party, the greatest night out in New York.”
“Mad Apple” will be Cirque’s sixth Las Vegas show and the first all-new one since it emerged from bankruptcy protection with new owners. In 2020, it had to suspend its productions around the globe as the pandemic crushed live entertainment.
Visitors enter the performance space before the show to find a massive bar and are greeted by magicians. The bar then transforms into the stage and the show begins, the infamous Cirque clowns replaced by two stand-up veterans — Brad Williams and Chris Turner.
“I’m the first stand-up comedian to be a part of a Cirque show and doing traditional standup,” said Williams. “That’s really exciting to me because I do like doing things that I’ve never done before.”
Usually, a Cirque show means pre-recorded whimsical and atmospheric worldbeat music, but not here. A live band with singers will stay onstage for most of “Mad Apple” performing hits by the likes of Billy Joel and Lady Gaga, including tunes by the Gershwins and notable jazz, culminating in “a big sort of Studio 54 party,” Painter said. “The whole show is set to the soundtrack of New York.”
Unlike many of Cirque’s big-top shows, there will be no narrative. “Given the current state of the world and everything else, we wanted to do a piece that was pure entertainment,” said Painter.
“Mad Apple” won’t skimp on physical stunts, with acrobats tumbling on top of a New York City taxi, an acrobat swinging on a New York street sign and the show closing with an acrobat doing tricks on an aerial pendulum of the Empire State Building.
“You could go see an acrobatic Cirque show. You can go see a live band. You can go see a magician. You can go see a comedian — and that’s four separate shows. Or you can go see ‘Mad Apple’ at New York-New York and all of that will be in one show,” said Williams. “This is a Cirque show that is really trying new things.”
When he was approached by Painter, Williams asked what sort of comedy the creative team was looking for. Would there need to be a theme, topics to avoid or suggested areas? “Simon said the most beautiful thing a performer could ever hear,” said Williams. “He said, ‘All I care is that it’s funny.’”
The show in some ways promises to nod to Cirque’s DIY Canadian roots. The now-global entertainment giant started out humbly with just a couple of buskers in Quebec.
Painter’s company, The Works Entertainment, which Cirque acquired in 2019, has developed several other live shows including “The Illusionists” and “Circus 1903,” which have always had a strong comedic element. Neil Dorward, veteran The Works director, will direct “Mad Apple.”