Q&A: Daniel Lamarre
As president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group, Daniel Lamarre is tasked with maintaining arguably the most successful show dynasty in the history of the Las Vegas Strip while also cultivating and developing the company’s values of creativity and artistic expression. Lamarre joined the company in 2001 and he shares its dedication to charitable causes in addition to the creative mission. During a recent announcement of a new Cirque du Soleil show coming to the Luxor, I spoke with Lamarre about the evolution of the company and Vegas entertainment.
You’ve just announced R.U.N, Cirque’s first action-thriller, will be opening at Luxor on Oct. 24. How different will this new show be compared to what Vegas audiences are familiar with?
I should probably start by saying there will be no traditional acrobatic act in the show. We want this one to be distinctive. That’s why we have been working with a lot of people from the movie industry and the stunt industry. The script is going to be written by Robert Rodriguez and that by itself says it will be a real story in a more classical way. The director is Michael Schwandt, who has been working with us on some big, spectacular special events as well as with Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and the music composer is Tyler Bates, who was been writing scores for a lot of different action movies. So that group is coming from the stunt and movie industry and combined with our Cirque creative and production people that are used to live entertainment, we are working to deliver a real immersive experience onstage.
It sounds different enough that it will present new challenges for Cirque du Soleil.
It’s certainly in our league. If you go into music like we did with The Beatles LOVE, you go with George Martin. If you go with stunts, you go to the best people in Hollywood. That’s how we’ve been able to minimize our risk, by working with the best. We’re still a bit crazy, always doing crazy stuff, and I think that’s what people expect from us and I think that’s what we’ll deliver again.
The story of R.U.N is set in Las Vegas, another first.
We want to become the flagship of the city and to do that, it has to happen here. It’s also places you’ve never been in Vegas. Most people come for three days and remain on the Strip. We are (shooting for) the idea that you’ve been to Vegas but if you really want to have the full experience, you have to see R.U.N.
Do you feel like audiences have been waiting for Cirque to do exactly this, to move in a new direction?
I have seen that, having been at Cirque for 18 years now. Every time you add a show you add something to the Cirque experience. We did that with “O,” and with Zumanity and KÁ, and we did that with The Beatles LOVE. That was also a huge departure. We forget that today, but it was. We haven’t launched a new show since 2013, so it’s a good thing for us now to bring something fresh and new.
There has been so much success for Cirque in Las Vegas. Is it still nerve-wracking to open a new show?
You have no idea of the anxiety. And it’s healthy. Because if we say, ‘We’re Cirque du Soleil and so people will come,’ it wouldn’t work. That would be the beginning of the end. We’re just totally blind right now, diving in and hoping for the best. We are not stupid either, we have experience and we have great people and I think we are mitigating our risk by doing our homework. But you never know in live entertainment how people are going to react and that’s the excitement of working in the entertainment business in this city in particular. We are trying again to reinvent a new category of show. If this works here, I think it’s opening a new door for Cirque du Soleil in a new genre.