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Cirque du Soleil’s Return Could Be Its Most Challenging Feat Yet

Yasmine Khalil, who recently stepped down as Cirque’s executive producer after 25 years at the company, said the group retained a sparkling global brand, while the pandemic offered the radically scaled-down organization the opportunity to reinvent itself.

But Ms. Khalil said the dusting-off of decades-old Las Vegas stalwarts underscored that in the era of lethal coronavirus variants and decimated profits, Cirque was not prepared to take creative or financial risks. Innovating is hard, she added, “when the primary goal is to break even and to focus on getting people to shows without them getting sick.”

“Would I go sit inside a theater with 2,000 people and wear a mask for two hours?” she asked. “Probably not.”

Originating in the 1980s as a troupe of Québécois stilt-walkers, fire breathers and other performers, Cirque du Soleil went on to reinvent the circus with jaw-dropping acrobatics, live music, flamboyant costumes and monumental, if thinly plotted, spectacle. At its height in 2019, when Cirque had seven simultaneous shows in Las Vegas, it was drawing nearly 10,000 theatergoers nightly.

“Mystère” and “O” — scheduled to open June 28 and July 1, respectively — will operate at full capacity in theaters of 1,806 and 1,616 seats without social distancing and at prepandemic ticket prices, said Daniel Lamarre, Cirque du Soleil’s chief executive. Employees will be tested regularly, and vaccination, while voluntary, will be strongly encouraged. The aim is to open the remaining three other Las Vegas shows by the end of the year.

Under new rules by Clark County, where Las Vegas is, shows can proceed with no social distancing once 60 percent of the state’s eligible population has received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose. Masks will be required. On May 6, Nevada reported that nearly 47 percent had received at least one shot.

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