MGM to Cirque du Soleil: Close ‘Viva Elvis’ by end of 2012

Cast members of Viva Elvis at the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at the Wynn on Dec. 3, 2010.
Photo: Erik Kabik/Retna/

By Robin Leach and John Katsilometes

MGM Resorts has asked Cirque du Soleil to replace its show Viva Elvis at the Aria by the end of 2012, citing poor ticket sales. The move is the first time that the Canadian company, which has come to dominate the big-production showrooms on the Strip, has been asked to shut a show.

“As attendance levels have not been meeting expectations, we have asked our partners at Cirque du Soleil to replace the show,” a company statement said. “We will work closely with Cirque as we explore future entertainment options.”

An internal Cirque du Soleil memo was sent to the cast of “Viva Elvis” on Wednesday afternoon announcing MGM’s intentions. Viva Elvis has played 900 performances at the Aria at CityCenter, to nearly 1 million people.

Viva Elvis Blue Carpet @Aria

In a letter to the cast and crew, Cirque CEO Daniel Lamarre said: “All of us are saddened we may have to bring ‘Viva Elvis’ to the end of its journey. The artistic merit of the production is exceptional. … We were given the notice by our partners there. We respect the decision as ticket sales have not met expectations. … I am proud of our work on this show and understand that this is simply a business decision.”

Lamarre said in an interview, "We will now take the appropriate time to focus on redeploying as many of the show’s employees as possible, when the time comes, and evaluating next steps for exploring the many possibilities for creative content."

MGM Resorts spokesman Alan Feldman said the show simply had not met business expectations. “I think it’s a terrific show, but it’s not selling the tickets we want it to sell. There’s a point in time where we’re in a position to ask them to put in a different show.

“Cirque has a very long planning cycle with its cast, and we don’t want people to not know what’s going on in their lives,” Feldman said.

Viva Elvis Media Tour

Viva Elvis is the newest of the seven Cirque du Soleil shows along the Strip, its 1,840-seat, acoustically refined showroom costing an estimated $100 million.

The show was previously scheduled to go dark for a 90-day retooling in January and reopen in early spring. A top Cirque official said Wednesday evening: “The extended dark period for a full revamp of the show will now not take place. It will just be the regular dark period from Feb. 4 through 11, but we will make previously planned artistic adjustments. … We will also be integrating the Banquine act from our Zed show for sure.”

Zed is a Cirque production that opened in Tokyo on Oct. 1, 2008, and will close this New Year’s Eve as a result of the economic effects of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake this year. The Banquine number “highlights the extraordinary agility of the human body as the troupe mystifies the audience by performing acrobatics and human pyramids in a series of dramatic movements and perfectly synchronized crossings that depend on the artists’ absolute trust.”

“If the Presley show was suddenly to achieve a 100 percent sold-out rate in the next months, it could live on longer,” a Cirque executive said. “However, that is unlikely."

Priscilla Presley @Viva Elvis

Cirque at first described this as “the likely intention by MGM to replace the show.” However, there is no indication by Cirque if it will develop another show for the Elvis Presley Theater. This is the first time that Cirque has moved to shutter one of its shows on the Strip since it arrived here with Mystere at Treasure Island in 1993.

Cirque confirms that its executives have met with artists, crew and staff to share the announcement with them. Cirque’s senior press attache said: “We will not be issuing any further information.”

Wednesday’s news comes just 10 days before the French-Canadian entertainment giant opens the highly anticipated “Michael Jackson: The Immortal World Tour” for a four-week run at Mandalay Bay. A permanent Michael Jackson resident show is scheduled to open in 2013 at Mandalay Bay.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

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