Dubai’s first permanent show, La Perle by Dragone, will open its doors later next year. It will be housed in a brand-new, purpose-built, state-of-the-art theatre, which is still under construction, but is shaping up to be another major draw in a city already packed with them.
The ambitious project started four years ago and will be the first show of its kind here in the Middle East – all of the stage and machinery is completely bespoke.
One of the city’s oldest hotels, the Metropolitan, was demolished to make way for Al Habtoor City and this venue, and as Mohammed Al Habtoor, Vice-Chairman and CEO of the Al Habtoor Group says, they “didn’t want it to be like any other theatre in the world.”
The Group only approached one person to help build La Perle – Franco Dragone. Dragone was one of the founding members of Cirque du Soleil in the 1980s, before he went on to form his own company, Dragone. Some of its biggest shows so far have been Le Rêve in Las Vegas and The House of Dancing Water in Macau, but La Perle is set to be something else entirely. “It’s not just a theatre, it’s an incredible machine,” Dragone says. “It’s like a spaceship, or an A380, which I have to fly.”
The 55-metre tall theatre will hold 2.7 million litres of water, all of which can be drained away in less than a minute. Right at the centre will be an 11-metre-deep pool. Powered by hydraulics, the aqua-stage will be able to change from a swimming pool into a normal stage and then back again. Audience members sat in the first few rows will, of course, get a little bit wet (but they’ll be given free ponchos for the pleasure).
There are 65 performers from 23 different countries who have been cast in the show and Dragone hand-picked them all after thousands auditioned to take part. The youngest performer, a contortionist, is just 18, and came third in America’s Got Talent back in 2014. “What’s really great about what Franco Dragone does,” says Tara Young, the show’s artistic director “is he searches all over the world to find artists of this calibre.”
Right now, the cast are training for up to 12 hours a day, and there will be all kinds of performances, from divers and contortionists, to people who fly through the air and swing on rings. Some will be flying at speeds of 15 kilometres an hour, while others will be diving from heights of 35 metres onto the stage. As well as such death-defying stunts, there’ll also be 70 technicians on hand behind the scenes to operate all the fountains, winches and hydraulics needed to keep the show going.
“The performers are jumping into the water and performing their act twice a night, so there’s a lot of wear and tear on their bodies,” says Kent Cooper, La Perle’s head of sales. “We also can’t have too much of a gap between the two shows, because they can’t cool down. Between shows, they’re in the basement on stationery bikes, staying warmed up and ready for the next show.”
Underneath the theatre, there’s a training room, a rehearsal space and a gym for the performers, to practise in behind closed doors, until the theatre is ready. When it’s finished, the team behind La Perle are expecting to see thousands of guests pass through their doors. The theatre will have seats for 1,300 people and there will be at least 450 shows in the first year. There’ll be ten shows every week, with two shows a night every day, apart from Mondays and Tuesdays.
Ticket prices are expected to start from around Dhs399, while the show itself will be an hour and a half long. And you’ll have to make yourself comfortable once you’re inside as there’ll be no intermission. There will, however, be free wi-fi, so you’ll be able to Tweet and Instagram photos of the stunts to your heart’s content.
La Perle by Dragone is set to open in mid-2017, although tickets will go on sale in January. You can register now on www.laperle.com for news on sales announcements.