Modern day Las Vegas has become well acquainted and associated with Cirque du Soleil. With seven shows in productions and no allegiance to any one hotel and resort chain, the Canadian entertainment troupe may be the most popular collective attraction on the Strip off the casino floors. However, one is remiss to forget the individual who has created two of those seven shows, one of his own, and one of the best selling residencies in the history of the city. That man is Franco Dragone.
Currently, anyone who has purchased Mystere tickets for the production at Treasure Island Hotel and Casino, O tickets for the production at the Bellagio, and Le Reve tickets for the production at the Wynn Las Vegas has seen his work. In fact, anyone how bought tickets to see Celine Dion during her legendary A New Day… residency also saw his work.
Franco Dragone was born in 1952 in Cairano Italy and worked his way up through the European theatre scene directing politically and socially charged stage productions and films, often utilizing techniques mastered by commedia dell’arte dramatist Dario Fo. This favoring of such an exaggerated theatre form that featured masks, distortion, and anti-humanism eventually put him in the same room as Guy Caron, the then director of the National Circus School and soon-to-be co-founder of Cirque du Soleil. Once the company came into existence in 1985, Caron invited Dragone to join as a creator.
Dragone created the majority of the prestigious Cirque du Soleil productions from 1985 to 1998, including Mystere. Mystere was the first Cirque du Soleil production to be preformed on Broadway. At the time the production was seen as a very expensive risk, one that scared away Caesars Palace in the early 1990s, but found a willing suitor and backer in Treasure Island. The unprecedented success of this first Cirque du Soleil show began a new era in Las Vegas entertainment.
The artistic director left the circus company in 1998 and formed his own group, the Franco Dragone Entertainment Group. Though it has produced works worldwide, its most famous show is the A New Day… production. The 2003 Celine Dion residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace ran for five years and grossed more than $400 million.
Franco Dragone has left an indelible mark on the Las Vegas Strip, ushering in a new era of big budget shows built around artistic concepts and not just well known headliners. Hopefully one day he will receive his due respect and one of the casinos will name a theater after him.