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O, which translates from French as water, is one of Cirque du Soleil’s most famous productions. Written and directed by the late Franco Dragone and instantly identified by its 1.5 million-gallon pool that drops 17 feet below the rest of the stage, O has consistently been hailed as one of the most dynamic productions in Las Vegas or anywhere else.

Global phenomenon

The theatre and the massive water tank were custom-built for Cirque during the construction of the Bellagio, before the casino’s opening in 1998. Apparently, there was a three-month waiting list to get in when the show premiered. The stage constantly changes from deep water to shallow to dry and remains a revolutionary build to this day.

Last year marked 25 years for the iconic Cirque du Soleil production, surpassing an astounding 11,300 performances and bringing more than 19 million guests on a journey of love, adventure, courage, and wonder. Its run in a single venue is rivalled only by The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, which recently closed after 35 years. And as with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Cirque du Soleil’s O has remained practically unchanged across all these years.

Circus masterclass

O incorporates every death-defying, jaw-dropping, mind-blowing act that the entertainers are known for – and all of them involve water. Dress accordingly if you want to sit in the first three rows, as you will definitely get wet!

Expect synchronised swimming, a 60-foot high dive, gymnastics, contortionists, trapeze work, aerial hoops, fire stunts, and even divers. During parts of the show, performers need to stay underwater for as long as 90 seconds at a time.

Aquatic awe

Water is incorporated as both an atmospheric and choreographic element. You will see some characters on ‘horses’ slowly disappearing under the water, and others playing a piano and then gradually descending underwater in front of thousands of mesmerised spectators. Another fantastic scene features a steel-frame ship suspended mid-air above the water rocking back and forth with a team of 11 acrobats jumping on and off it.

The steampunk genre might be about harnessing technology, mechanical invention,  beautiful flowing costumes and evocative lighting, but this show is really about the mastery of human mechanics, the minutiae of muscle control, and our reflexive surprise at what flesh-and-bone bodies can do.

Funny, dark and mysterious

The story wouldn’t be complete without the odd-couple friendship of two clowns, Leonid and Valery. Their hilarious mime interactions with the audience make you laugh from the very first minutes of O. This team, originally from Russia, has been performing together since the early 1980s and was also featured in Cirque du Soleil’s original Alegría.

There are also live musicians and singers on each side of the stage. If you aren’t paying attention, it might be easy to miss them. Like most Cirque du Soleil productions, O’s storyline is not very linear. What makes it different is the number of twists and wow moments, which we can’t share to avoid spoilers. Once you see the entire show, you’ll understand the logic behind it. But it wouldn’t be a true Cirque du Soleil production if you weren’t left questioning what just happened and more importantly how it’s even possible.

Cirque Du Soleil’s ‘O’ is shown Tuesday-Sunday at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Tickets and more info can be found here.

Image credits: © Cirque du Soleil