No Vanilla at Cirque Du Soleil’s Zumanity on Las Vegas’ Strip

I am lucky enough to go on a trip to Las Vegas and decided to embrace it: After all, this is a stageblog and this is not only Sin City but also the place to look out for stages!

One third of my company really wants to see a burlesque show but is (when I pick up a flyer on Zombie Burlesque – apparently a dead sexy comedy musical) no longer sure about trusting my suggestions. I’d definitely go as it would be something new and different (tick! tick!) but instead aim with so much choice of shows around the Las Vegas Strip to find a compromise. Shouldn’t we after all go and see some magic as we are in the world capital of illumination and illusion? I think of Siegfried & Roy and films like The Sonny and Cher Story, Behind the Candelabra and the wonderful Electrick Children. I also remember how much strip clubs have bored me on the few occasions I have been in Hamburg and how annoyed I got with the beer prices in these establishments. And that the flirty-not-dirty burlesque shows I have seen in London could have done with a bit more spice.

The other third of my company likes it high class, “something to rave about back at home”, and suddenly I remember having heard Cirque Du Soleil has an x-rated show here in Vegas – along with four other Cirque shows. We all agree that this is what we want to see.

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A New York themed hotel is Zumanity’s permanent residence

The three of us have each seen a Cirque show before in the Royal Albert Hall back in London. For me it was Kooza (or Koozå to be precise) and apparently the sun circle’s own homage to their very beginnings, with clowns, mimes and everything circus. I loved the crowd and still hear their roaring applause: Lots of families speaking in all kind of languages and wide-eyed children everywhere enjoying some world-class acrobatics, stunts and comedy.

Over the last couple of years I have become slightly annoyed with the overuse of over-18-ratings as all it takes is the London family mum or dad in Outnumbered to drop the f-word in an semi-improvised scene and immediately the DVD has an adult-only-certificate. Arctic fairytales are being told at 8pm in Soho and we find an over-16-policy. In the age of offence I understand that event managers need to make people aware of content but this does not mean that the piece-in-question has to be put next to some really nasty bad-taste stuff. Has a slipped swear word the same shocking notation as, say, an old man fighting a gang of Rayban-equipped gangsters on ice skates whose favourite pastime it is to murder homeless people for a laugh? (If you know what film I refer to, please believe me: I wish I had not seen it either.)

When we buy the tickets at our hotel’s concierge desk we are being informed that we will be confronted with adult content which will include the representations of different lifestyles. And that our traditional values – like marriage or heterosexuality – might be questioned. I respond politely that we are European and then have a giggle anyway.

We head to the New York New York hotel with its own Chrysler Building, Lady Liberty and rollercoaster. Soon we will find out that tonight’s show totally deserves its 18 certificate and it is probably its best advertising, sticking out well between the countless posters trying to get our attention on the famous, brightly illuminated Las Vegas Strip.

Inside it is as mad and loud as in every other hotel in Vegas where everything is allowed but daylight. We finally find the entrance to the Zumanity theatre and the lady checking our tickets wears something showing more than it covers. We are reminded that no photography is allowed inside. Now, I have always respected this but in the lobby here is already a lot being shown; skin in particular, gentlemen in faun costumes or a kilt and not much more. You can pose with all of them for a fee but I already discover the photo shooting of a bridal couple and while you come across newlyweds on every corner in Vegas, these two are dressed outstandingly glamorous and I am far more impressed by their (less kinky) clothes and suspect that their presence is for a bridal magazine.

Inside the theatre the stage has a big, lush velvet curtain and is surrounded by two spiral staircases, bridging the space for a 6-piece music band above all: Someone aimed for a steampunk version of the Moulin Rouge and I love it!

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The lush red curtain is already a temptation

The show is warmed-up by some comedy sidekicks, leading to lots of audience interaction (think bananas) and I am glad that our seats are at the back and especially glad that I am not sitting on seat 69 – I get complimented in Italian on my flower hair piece by an actor chatting to the arriving guests and that’s all. Then a two-meter-tall lady (add high heels) named Edy takes over the main stage and in the first row she points out the wedding couple I saw in the lobby: She herself married them on this very stage two hours ago. Their families are sitting behind and behind them the show’s producer. Welcome to America, welcome to Las Vegas!

Edy confronts other guests with frivolous talk about threesomes, orgies and much more you would not share with your grandma and then concludes with the wonderfully general message that “sexy is beautiful”. There are two powerful main singers, male pole dancing, almost naked trapeze artists, two ladies in a pool, men kissing men, ropes turning into bondages, tattoos, lots of high heels and stripping only when there is something to strip out of. If the acrobats are not naked during their daredevil acts, they wear costumes making it look like they are. Before anyone finds the time to wonder if the audience commits voyeurism, another comedy moment distracts from this thought.

For a split second I wonder if all body shapes should be represented here (not just when talking about bra sizes and, em, length) and they kind of have in the comedy takes but then this would not be a fair discussion – we are witnessing first class acrobats, the best of the world, some of them probably former Olympians as well. These people have serious muscles and the bodies for it because agility is their job and they are not here wearing a skinny rainbow-colored cat suit to represent a parrot: You can either complain that Cirque lost its innocent or admire that someone dared taking their own sensuality back from the spandex onesie. I am not an athlete, but even I find this train of thought empowering.

The finale brings everyone back on stage and the ensemble circles around Edy in a set-up she calls Paradise; all three of us admit later that we were reminded of Eyes Wide Shut. For the applause the audience is particularly asked to get mobile phones out, to film and take pictures, to spread the word and – share the love.

Would this work back home? In London? Or in Hamburg, on the Reeperbahn with its sleazy pole dancers who never oozed anything interesting? Why not, I’d love it. I feel really lovvy right now anyway.

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Quoting our concierge: “Contains adult content which will include the representations of different lifestyles”

Zumanity is the resident show by Cirque du Soleil at the New York New York Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada since 2003.

The tickets were bought at the same day at the Bellagio hotel which is also located at the Las Vegas Strip – both hotels belong to MGM Resorts and with their guest loyalty card M Life Rewards I paid for Zumanity for seat 10 in row J in total $74.18.

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