Theatre / Mystere
is Cirque du Soleil
's seventh show, and first "resident" (non-touring) production. On Christmas Day, 1993, it opened at the then-new Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The viewpoint characters are two babies (played by adults) — one male, one female — each of whom has a "lovey
". For him, it is a red ball almost as big as he; for her, it is a toy snail on wheels and a string. Not long after the show begins, each loses their lovey, and off they go into the wide, strange world to find them again. The acrobatic acts that follow represent its wonders: noble angels, silly viruses, whimsical birds, etc. The pompous emcee Moha-Samedi more or less keeps order amongst the creatures, but he may meet his match with Brian Le Petit
, who isn't one of them and has an appetite for mischief all his own...
While Treasure Island's then-owner Steve Wynn was shocked and unsure of the show's prospects when it was first previewed to him, so different was it from traditional Las Vegas entertainment of the time, it would find a large, appreciative audience. Time
magazine's theater critic declared it one of the best shows of 1994
. Its popularity and acclaim set the stage for the company's even more spectacular "O"
at Wynn's Bellagio in 1998, and another seven shows after that for Vegas. Cirque's longest-running show to date (20+ years nonstop), Mystere
endures as the "purest" of their Vegas efforts, the closest analogue to their tours; its current contract with the hotel isn't set to expire until 2016.
In Knocked Up
, this is the show the guys check out on their trip to Vegas. It has also been credited
as an inspiration for the video game NiGHTS into Dreams... note
As yet, this show hasn't been filmed, due to its host casino wanting to protect its investment. However, acts, characters, and performers appear in the 2000 IMAX short Journey of Man
, the 2003 Variety Show
/ Widget Series Solstrom
, and the 2012 3D feature Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away
. The 2007 documentary The Mystery of Mystere
includes a goodly deal of show footage, albeit with spoilers for the comedy acts.
This show contains examples of:
- Alice Allusion: The unofficial name of the toy snail is Alice. Officially it is called Escargot.
- All There in the Manual: The show's a large metaphor for the history of the universe and life in it — the creators even took inspiration from chaos theory — but it's easy to miss that theme without a look at the program or documentary. The backstories/motivations of characters may only be discussed in interviews with performers or at Cirque fan events. (Brian Le Petit wanders into the theatre from a wedding where he's had too much to drink, the Double Faces are a sort of Hive Mind, Mephisto is drawn to the beauty unfolding on stage yet is not ruled by it, etc.)
- Animal Motifs: It's a Franco Dragone-directed show, so there is a lot of bird imagery, starting with the Red Bird and the Birds of Prey. The bright-yellow clad handbalancer/dancer has been referred to by a variety of different names, but one of them is "The Yellow Bird" (sometimes more specifically The Yellow Chicken), and the bungee performers are another variety of bird in-story. Moha-Samedi's ventriloquist dummy is a bizarre bird, and the singers have feathers in their headdresses. As well, prior to the 1995-96 Retool, there were The Pets, good counterparts to the Birds of Prey who performed the Sedov flying trapeze act.
- Archangel Gabriel: A loose take. The group commonly referred to as Les Laquais ("the servants"; they're dressed like footmen) was originally known as the Archangels. Naturally, the older programs note that "the finest of the Archangels" is named Gabriel; he's the character who performs the aerial cube act.
- Audience Participation: Big time from the preshow onwards.
- Audience Participation Failure: Always risked, especially once the story gets going — and how the cast handles this only makes things funnier. Part of its repeat value stems from the suspense over how reluctant, say, the "papa/mama" turns out to be at this performance, and how it will be overcome.
- Bad Samaritan: Part of the preshow is based on a gentler, merely mischievous version of this, as Brian offers to lead just-arriving audience members to their seats.
- Balloonacy: Originally the female baby was lifted to the skies by a bouquet of red balloons during the transition to the climactic acrobatic setpiece, but this bit of stage business was dropped in the 2012 retool (presumably it was too difficult to pull off with the new stage equipment required for the trapeze act). She still descends to the stage via balloons in the finale, however.
- Bare Your Midriff: La Belle and the Black Widow, dancers who are thematic opposites of each other, have costumes that do this. A few members of the female ensemble show up in this state at some point as well.
- Big Fun: Bebe Francois is always played as this. He may be "just" a baby, but he's generally cheerful and certainly fun-loving. As soon as he's aware of the audience, he shows off his red ball to them and then tosses it out to them so they can toss it back. He can even play pranks on others.
- Big Ol' Eyebrows: Brian Le Petit. The eyebrows are the only aspects of his makeup that come off as "clownish", but they count for a lot, especially combined with his Einstein Hair and ill-fitting suit.
- Bilingual Bonus: Intentionally evoked — Brian Dewhurst took on the clown act from its originator Wayne Hronek and chose "Le Petit" as his stage surname as a callback to Hronek's "Benny Le Grand". That is to say, "Benny the Great" was succeeded by "Brian the Small". Now counts as Hilarious in Hindsight, as he's held the role far longer than his predecessor.
- Book Ends: The taiko drums, which are so important to the show that they are regarded as an act in and of themselves.
- Brick Joke: As at most theatrical productions, the audience is instructed not to smoke or take flash photography during the show. It turns out that Brian doesn't think well of these rules...
- But Thou Must: The audience participation during the show comes down to this — agree to do something, and you've agreed to do everything else that follows.
- Chainsaw Good: Oh, how this is played with... Brian tries to get the man out of the crate with one; when Moha-Samedi stops him, the clown quickly realizes he can shoo the emcee away via the threat of a Groin Attack...
- Cool Old Guy: Brian Le Petit, both within the show and in Real Life — his performer, Brian Dewhurst, was born in 1932. (Here's what happened when he turned 80.)
- Though only 40, Marek Haczkiewicz (Moha-Samedi) counts. He's wearing a flipping Foo Fighters shirt in this picture!◊
- Francois Dupuis, creator of the Bebe Francois character, played that role from the show's 1993 launch until his death in 2012 at the age of 59.
- Crack Fic: Mystere Du Le Kooza. Written as a haunted house type fanfic, while simultaneously being someone's ship fantasy too. Try not to think too hard about the title of the fic, either.
- Crazy-Prepared / Hidden Supplies: Again, Brian, who seems to have a prank/gag for every occasion on his person.
- Cut Song: Due to the 1995-96 Retool, three songs had to be cut ("Rumeurs", "Caravena", and "Birimbau"). Since they all appeared on the 1994 soundtrack album, it was another reason that the live album was recorded in '96 and the original eventually went out of print. Oddly, "Birimbau" was the song chosen to represent this show on the company's 25th anniversary Greatest Hits Album, as well as in the Delirium concert tour. In late 2010, most of "High Bar" was cut and replaced with a new, more upbeat number. That song was dropped in 2012 with the act itself when a trapeze act and the new song "Fiesta" was brought in to replace it.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Since mystere is the French word for mystery, the title of the documentary translates as The Mystery of Mystery!
- Disappearing Box: Brian picks a man out from the audience for this trick.
- Distaff Counterpart: If Bebe Francois's performer is absent, his act/plot thread with the ball is played out by the female baby, Bebebe. In this case, Moha-Samedi gives her the toy snail to compensate for the loss of the ball, but she loses that too...
- Distressed Dude: Turns out to be the audience member whom Brian locks in the box!
- Dramatic Thunder: Used for two acts — it bookends the aerial cube segment and introduces and punctuates the feats in the hand-to-hand act.
- Drumroll Please: Once Brian has locked the man in the box, this kicks in as he works his "magic" and reveals what he's taken out of the box.
- Einstein Hair: Brian Le Petit. This might or might not be a Continuity Nod to performer Brian Dewhurst's previous Cirque show Nouvelle Experience — his character there, the Great Chamberlain, had the same 'do (it's his actual hair teased out in both cases).
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: The costumes for the "birds" in the bungee act are almost literally dripping with sequins.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: The climax of the aerial cube act has the performer spin the huge frame around and around him, and then balance a corner of it — still spinning — on the palm of his hand.
- The Ferry Man: The Spark, a motivational book about Cirque's various creative processes, points out that Brian serves as this in the preshow: In playing at leading people to their seats, he's also leading the audience away from Real Life and towards the Magic Land.
- Flipping the Bird: Via the hands of Brian Le Petit.
- La Belle/The Black Widow (Light and dark aspects of femininity and beauty)
- Moha-Samedi/Brian Le Petit (Order Versus Chaos)
- Les Laquais/The Spermatoes and Spermatites (Ditto, but more benignly so; the Korean plank/trampoline/fast track act depicts this)
- The Birds of Prey/The Green Lizards (Predator and prey)
- The Red and Yellow Birds/The Birds of Prey (Peaceful versus aggressive)
- Frothy Mugs of Water: Real Life example — the "champagne" is actually sparkling cider.
- Get Out: Moha-Samedi to Brian, near the end. And to the audience when it objects!
- Graceful Ladies Like Purple / Purple Is the New Black: The Black Widow's costume has a lot of purple in it, fitting both the "graceful and mature" version of the former trope and the villainous connotation of the latter.
- Groin Attack: Threatened, via chainsaw, by Brian to Moha-Samedi.
- Hair Decorations: Bebebe has a pink bow or two in her hair, which makes the performer appear more childlike.
- Ham-to-Ham Combat: Moha-Samedi versus Brian Le Petit, especially as the latter makes his final stand. He even calls on reinforcements, namely the audience.
- Happy Ending: For just about everybody...
- Herald: La Vache a Lait, whose blowing of a horn heralds the opening and closing of the show. His true herald role comes in how he figures into the babies losing their loveys and starting their journey — he encourages Bebe Francois to throw the ball his way and it falls into a deep gap between them...
- Insult Backfire: After it was first presented to him, Steve Wynn was upset with writer-director Franco Dragone for giving him "a German opera". Dragone took that as a compliment, since he was shooting for a grand, ambitious show (as opposed to the then-typical "Vegas show"). This may also count as Hilarious in Hindsight, given how grand and sweeping "O" would turn out to be.
- Interpretative Character: Brian Le Petit. Dating back to his origins as Benny Le Grand, the character has always been a Screwy Squirrel who finds ways to mess with the audience and other characters in a series of carefully conceived setpieces. But his attitude in all this and how that affects his interactions with everyone else is left up to the performer — between the core performers and their understudies, he has been interpreted as surly, impish, brazen, and even as a lovable loser over the years.
- It Will Never Catch On: Real Life example, as Steve Wynn obviously thought this way — when it did, he apologized.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Moha-Samedi — pompous, yes. But a lot of it's just pride for all the wonders he gets to emcee, when you think about it. He's friendly with the other characters too, with the understandable exception of Brian (who won't stop picking on him).
- Living Toys: Escargot, at the end.
- Long List: During the No Talking or Phones Warning, Moha-Samedi's puppet rattles off one with regards to items that must be turned off during the show. Keeping pace with technology, the list is periodically updated; as of 2012, it included references to Facebook and sexting!
- Long Runners: If it closes in 2016, it will have enjoyed a 23-year run. It's already enjoying the longest nonstop run for a Cirque show.
- Magical Land: An unusual example in that the character who has newly arrived in it (Brian) isn't the protagonist.
- Meaningful Name
- Moha-Samedi means "first day of the new millennium", reflecting the fact that the show opened less than a decade before a new one started.
- The stage and scenery, which has sections/setpieces that can rise, fall, spin, and/or tilt, is known as Deusexmachina. Older programs suggest that it is a living organism that rules over the characters.
- Mind Screw: The lack of the fourth wall is throroughly played with, strange creatures (including a Satan analogue) come and go through the transitions with no major part to play...
- The Narrator: According to the website, "Moha-Samedi is the narrator no one listens to." He periodically addresses the audience with quite the know-it-all attitude, but since it's all in Simlish...
- Nice Hat: Moha-Samedi's pink bowler.
- No Fourth Wall: This concept is key to how the show unfolds.
- Non-Ironic Clown: Bebe Francois combines this trope with the traditional Cirque protagonist (the original performer created the character before joining Cirque's 1992 tour Fascination); Brian Le Petit is a straightforward example. Brian and Moha-Samedi's adversarial relationship has roots in the traditional clown archetypes of the wise guy "auguste" and the straight man "whiteface"; indeed, Moha-Samedi's base makeup is white.
- No Talking or Phones Warning: Which becomes the basis for two brick jokes. (As of 2015, non-flash photography is allowed to help promote the show on social media, but this doesn't affect the jokes.)
- Offscreen Crash: Twice. And it's all harmless Slapstick!
- A heard-but-unseen "stagehand" trying to pursue Brian up a ladder (it comes up from beneath the audience's line of sight) winds up going down with the ladder when Brian kicks it over.
- When the careening golf cart (yeah, It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context) practically chases Moha-Samedi offstage, we hear screeching brakes and a thud. The cart reemerges broken down, and depending on the performance Moha-Samedi may be splayed, unconscious, atop it...
- Oh Crap!: Brian has this reaction when his chainsaw runs down.
- Once Upon a Time: Used in the program for the section setting up the story of the babies.
- Opening Ballet: Known as "Ouverture-Ramsani" on the soundtrack.
- Order Versus Chaos: Moha-Samedi versus Brian Le Petit is a comic version of this. Order wins.
- Original Cast Precedent: Broken in the case of the Red Bird. For years the role was only played by male performers, but the artistic directors decided to break the precedent with Natasha Hallett in 1999 because they thought she fit the character's personality better. This required a new costume design since the male Red Bird is a Walking Shirtless Scene, but it worked out well. The part can now be filled by performers of either gender.
- Picnic Episode: The romantic variety, for Brian and a woman in the audience. While her date is trapped in a crate.
- Pinball Protagonist: The babies mostly serve as audience surrogates; they both are seeking their loveys but have little effect on the other characters and events (aside from participating in the Korean plank/trampoline/fast track sequence), and ultimately it's their items that come back to them. Of course, it might be asking a bit much to demand that a pair of babies be more proactive — even if one of them can drive a golf cart.
- Pink Means Feminine: Played straight with two characters but averted with another.
- Bebebe wears white pajamas with pink swirls and pom-poms on them, pink bows in her hair, and pink piggy slippers on her feet.
- The aerial silk performer wears pink and performs on/with a long pink length of cloth. Even her otherwise golden hair has pink highlights.
- Averted with Moha-Samedi, a male character who wears a pink suit and bowler ("The Man in Pink" has become his Fan Nickname) but is not portrayed as stereotypically feminine.
- Refuge in Audacity: The Disappearing Box bit. It's a trick that allows Brian to woo the man's date.
- Retool: Two major ones.
- Over 1995-96 three acts were dropped (manipulation, acrobatics on a net, and Sedov flying trapeze) and replaced with aerial cube and high bar segments. Much of the score was replaced and revamped by a different composer. A third baby (a male whose lovey was a doll) was among characters dropped. The overall tone of the show was also lightened.
- In 2012, the first half of the bungee trapeze act was dropped and replaced with a solo aerial silk act set to the same song, and the high bar act was replaced with a traditional trapeze act; both segments and their performers were originally from the Tokyo-based Cirque show ZED, which closed at the end of 2011.
- Rule of Three: Brian attempts to take over the show by putting words into the puppet's mouth: "You can smoke now if you want to! Take flash photography! Take your clothes off!"
- Rummage Sale Reject: Brian Le Petit's suit and tie would look quite natty if 1) it weren't a size or two too big for him and 2) he wasn't wearing sneakers with it. Granted, the sneakers do go with the rest of the black and white ensemble. (The All There in the Manual Backstory explanation: he picked up the wrong rental suit for a wedding.)
- Satan: A minor part — the stiltwalker that appears after the dance to "Gambade" is a demon named Mephisto who serves as an analogue to this (along with his Distaff Counterpart Venus, who appears with him in the closing sequence). In the Journey of Man short, he fills the Satan role outright when The Everyman hero decides to make a Deal with the Devil.
- Screwy Squirrel: Brian Le Petit is an unstoppable prankster, and heaven forbid you provoke him. When he's being chased up a ladder by an unseen stagehand in the blackout skit, he stops him by kicking it over, and later he ends an offstage fight with the Red Bird by shooting it. It isn't fatal. In the end, as the business with the crate goes increasingly wrong, his attempts to save his own skin become increasingly outrageous/ridiculous.
- Security Blanket: The babies' toys.
- Set Switch Song: "Egypte", "Dome", and "Gambade".
- Sexophone: Spoofed as Brian Le Petit approaches the man in the box's date.
- Silence Is Golden: There's very little dialogue after the opening announcements. It has been said that part of this show's (and Cirque in general's) success in Las Vegas lies in its appeal to international tourists who are not fluent in English.
- Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Most of the TV/online ads and clips don't include Brian Le Petit; justified in that it avoids spoilers.
- Slapstick: Besides the Offscreen Crash, the intro to the Korean plank/trampoline/fast track segment has the Red Bird engaging in this with one of the Spermatoes.
- So Unfunny It's Funny: Brian's last-ditch efforts to avoid The Man in Pink's wrath have him breaking out hoary old gags: putting on a red clown nose, miming that he's stuck behind a wall, etc. The audience invariably laughs at these, but...
- Speaking Simlish: Most of the cast. Brian speaks only in English, Bebe Francois knows a little bit of English ( "papa" or "mama") and Moha-Samedi is fluent in both "Cirquish" and English. During the opening announcements, he starts in Simlish until his puppet warns him — in English — that the audience doesn't understand him.
- Splash of Color: Inverted with Brian's black-and-white suit and sneakers, the only costume that has no color in it, to better emphasize that he's an intruder in the story. Near the end, he gives himself a splash of color by donning a red clown nose.
- True Blue Femininity: Blue is the primary color in La Belle and the singers' costumes.
- Two-Faced: The creatures who perform the Chinese poles act, the "Double Faces", have faces on the front and back of their heads. The performers wear masks on the back of their heads to achieve this effect; the twist is, it's usually the masked side presented to the audience, and all the masks look alike. Combined with the choreography (particularly in the "Egypte" intro), it's surreal.
- The Vamp: The Black Widow, who desires to corrupt Gabriel.
- Ventriloquism: Moha-Samedi. He's not great at it, though...
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Even more than usual for a Cirque show. Via Acting for Two, most of the male ensemble qualifies as this at some point; the aerial cube performer and hand to hand duo are this as well. But the singular Red Bird, when played by a man, is the most obvious example, so much so that when Brian encounters him and proceeds to mock his dancing, he opens his own shirt for a moment to complete the spoof.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Or, what happened to Brian Le Petit, who isn't in the curtain call? The explanation is that he wasn't "part of the show", so he was kicked out. This restriction is lifted for special, usually milestone, shows.
- World of Ham: When even the audience qualifies as large hams by the end...
- X Meets Y: The Time critic summed up the show with the phrase "Siegfried Roy Webber" — that is to say, Siegfried and Roy meet Andrew Lloyd Webber. This does sum up the show's Spectacle well enough for readers of The '90s, but it became beloved for aiming for more than that.note