After creating permanent installations in Las Vegas and Orlando, Cirque du Soleil has moved into another new home, this time at the Beau Rivage resort in Biloxi, MS (the newest hotel venture by casino tycoon Steve Wynn). The 1,560-seat theatre opened on May 20, with the touring production of Alegria settling in for a long run at the end of its five-year international tour.
The initial design concept for the 52,000-sq.-ft. theatre came from Michel Crete, who also designed the sets for Alegria, and for most of Cirque du Soleil's other productions. The design was realized by an architectural and theatre consultant team including Michel Aube, Patrick Berger, and Claude Andre Roy from Sceno Plus, a Montreal-based firm that has worked with Cirque du Soleil on its other permanent installations as well.
Inspired by the warm climate of the South of France and the paintings of Henri Matisse, the theatre has a bright yellow ceiling medallion to recall the sun, a blue ceiling which recalls a big top for the sky, red and orange sunset tones on the walls, sandy yellow seats, and Matisse-blue carpeting. The warm ambiance of the room is at home in its location on the Gulf of Mexico. "The ceiling is not just blue," says Aube, "but a voluptuous melange. The theatre is a happy marriage of colors."
The stage and audience areas are the same size as those in the Cirque's touring big top, since this theatre will be used for various shows as they complete their tours. Designed with the tent in mind, the seating wraps 270 degrees, or almost all the way around the 3/4 thrust stage. The space has two grids to allow an eventual conversion to a proscenium theatre if desired in the future. A lighting ring hangs 10' under the lower grid and over the stage, with a series of moving rays or fingers that create a full circle, which closes to hide the grid. The structure is usually left open for performances, but it can be closed if a more traditional production ever moves into the space.
"The largest challenge in designing this theatre," says Aube, "was to integrate a touring show into a permanent space and keep the sense of intimacy. It had to be a flexible room yet a warm, interesting space for Cirque." One of the attempts to add intimacy to the room is the 39" span from one chair arm to the next, while this distance measures 42" at both the Mystere and O theatres in Las Vegas.
The lighting system includes 900 ETC Sensor dimmers (10 racks of 90) and two Strand 550i consoles. "We are the only Cirque show to run everything with one board," says Alegria's lighting director John Farber, who explains that the second console serves as a backup. The lighting for the show was designed by Luc Lafortune, whose rig includes 425 ETC Source Four ellipsoidals, 80 Wybron Coloram II scrollers, and 10 Clay Paky Stage Zoom automated luminaires. An ethernet hub system was installed by Production Arts/PRG.
When Alegria came in from the road, the challenge for sound designer Guy Desrochers was to use the touring sound system in the theatre. The system includes a Midas XL3 console, 67 JBL 4892 and 4893 speakers, 45 JBL amplifiers (MPA600s and 1100s), JBL DSC 260 & 280 processing, and 10 Klark Teknik DN3600 graphic equalizers. "I spent three and a half months on the road with the show," says audio engineer Jason Pritchard, who runs the show. "This room sounds amazing compared to the tent, which is a very difficult environment for sound. Guy did an amazing job redoing the road system for the theatre. There is even coverage for every single seat."
The total cost for the theatre was $19.4 million, with $4 million dedicated to technical equipment.