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‘The Illusionists’ joins in on the fun for Cirque’s annual One Drop fundraiser

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The Illusionists’ Jonathan Goodwin
Photo: Courtesy

Update: Cirque du Soleil announced on February 27 that R.U.N at Luxor will close permanently on March 8.

The annual One Night for One Drop gala event has always been a one-off in terms of entertainment—a unique show that helps provide safe water to the most vulnerable communities on the planet. Last year’s seventh annual event showcased a sort of all-star variety show, bringing together Cirque du Soleil artists and creators at Bellagio’s O Theater, and this year’s event brings the debut of The Illusionists at Luxor.

The 2020 One Night was originally going to showcase R.U.N., Cirque’s first new Las Vegas Strip resident show since 2013. “It would also put more money into the foundation, because the show was already produced and still so new,” says Jerry Nadal, foundation board member and executive producer of One Night for One Drop.

Of course, the cost of producing a one-night-only performance of such magnitude is significant. “But [we] realized there’s always a breaking-in and retooling period for every Cirque show. When Cirque wanted to continue working on R.U.N—and since [Cirque] bought The Illusionists in 2019, and it has never played Vegas—that allowed us to continue with the original concept and still spotlight something new.”

The Illusionists is a touring magic production created by Simon Painter and Tim Lawson, partners in The Works Entertainment, a company acquired by Cirque du Soleil about a year ago. The Illusionists premiered at the Sydney Opera House in Australia in 2012 and has toured the world with a rotating cast of performers that has included The Clairvoyants, a duo that recently performed at Paris Las Vegas, and current Mirage headliner Shin Lim. The show has completed successful recent runs on Broadway and London’s West End.

The upcoming Vegas version will be “curated specifically” for One Night for One Drop, Nadal says, and surprises could include guest appearances by other artists and entertainers. “What Simon Painter has been able to do [with this show] is really corner the global market on magic entertainment,” Nadal says. “It doesn’t rely on an individual personality like a David Copperfield or a Criss Angel. It’s really about the collective and what each individual’s strengths are. And it’s just a fun night out with something for everybody.”

And it’s cost-effective, since it’s Cirque-owned, meaning more money from this year’s show will go to the foundation. But it’s also an ideal showcase for a magic show that probably should be playing nightly somewhere on the Strip, the global capital of magic. New Circus Circus owner Phil Ruffin has said that he’s in negotiations to bring The Illusionists to the north Strip property, potentially planting the first resident show at the family-friendly resort in several years.

Nadal, a former Cirque executive, couldn’t confirm those negotiations—and the company had not responded to an official inquiry as of press time—but he did say The Illusionists deserves a “home on the Strip. MGM [Resorts] is the main partner for Cirque du Soleil, so I hope MGM takes a look at it.”

The show is only part of the magical experience for this year’s One Night for One Drop. The event will take over the entire renovated R.U.N Theater space, and the afterparty will be held in a huge tent in front of Mandalay Place, the same location from two years ago. Guy Laliberté, one of the founders of Cirque du Soleil and the One Drop foundation, is scheduled to DJ at the party.

ONE NIGHT FOR ONE DROP March 27, 7:30 p.m., $125-$225. R.U.N Theater at Luxor, onenight.onedrop.org.

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