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Timeless "O" approaches 25 years in Las Vegas

By: Lisa Naccarato (Las Vegas)

"O" at Bellagio Resort (All photos courtesy Cirque du Soleil)

Few shows have the kind of staying power that Cirque du Soleil's ground breaking spectacle "O" commands. Since opening at the Bellagio resort in October, 1998, more than 14 million guests have embarked on the dream-like journey that is “O”.

More than 8,000 performances later, this lavish production is still as enthralling as ever thanks to the passion of the 70 performers and 150 stage technicians that make “O” come to life. Inspired by the concept of infinity and the elegance of water’s pure form, “O” pays tribute to all things theatre - from the simplest street performance to the most lavish of operas. It presents the idea that anything is possible in the drama of life.

“O”, phonetically speaking, is the French word for water (spelled “eau”). The international cast of world-class acrobats, Olympians, synchronized swimmers, divers and characters perform in, on and above a 1.5 million-gallon pool. The pool is specially built to allow for the stage to retract above it, or reveal either a deep or shallow pool.

"It starts with this gorgeous theatre then you add to the stage the potential for a one and half million gallons of water but at the same time we can bring the lifts up and make it look like there is no water there whatsoever, completely dry this 180Ft by 40ft stage," said Bob Salyer, Operations Production Manager for Cirque Du Soleil "O".

Reflective of a 14th century European opera house, the “O” theatre seats 1,800 guests and was custom-designed to meet the unique demands of the show. A technical masterpiece in every way, what is going on under the unique stage is just a precise as the artistry above.

"There is a lot of equipment in that pool that can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing there," said Salyer. "So if you start here at O you get the PADI scuba certification, so every technician backstage with the exception of wardrobe is a PADI certified rescue diver."

During the entire show, scuba divers are in pool and each performer has their own air regulator under the water allowing them to stay submerged until the next cue in the performance.

In recognition of the technical and safety demands of this flagship show, the scuba divers are given their own theatrical cameo. At one point, the stage rises from the pool and black-clad scuba divers flop around like fish a dock before disappearing back into the water below. Along with contortionists on barges and aerial acrobats high above the stage, divers leap from 60 ft in the air into a 17 ft deep triangular section of the pool.

But if you're in the front rows, don't worry, there isn't really a "splash zone" at the show. While the first or second rows might see the odd drop of water, no one is going home soaked in anything but amazement from this performance.

Cirque du Soleil's "O" runs at Bellagio Resort, Las Vegas.


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