When Wynn Las Vegas opened in 2005, the Lake of Dreams show debuted as an entertaining high-tech amenity of sorts seen mostly by guests dining on the patios of SW Steakhouse and Daniel Boulud Brasserie, or those enjoying a cocktail at Parasol Down or its terrace.  Fast-forward fifteen years, and it’s 2020.  COVID-19 has rendered what we’ve historically thought of as “entertainment” untenable, Daniel Boulud Brasserie has long since closed and been reopened as Lakeside, and a new, super high-tech, reimagined version of the Lake of Dreams show has been unveiled as capital-E Entertainment for this day and age.

Mind you, this wasn’t something that was whipped-up during the shutdown as a response to COVID.  Quite to the contrary (though it’s always nice when the timing clicks, right?).  A couple of years back, the powers that be at Wynn decided an update of the Lake of Dreams show was in order, and that meant that it was time to get the band back together, as it were.  This meant gathering, once again, the incredible talents of Kenny Ortega (director), Michael Curry (production designer), and Patrick Woodroofe (lighting designer), and their respective teams, to bring the whole thing to life. *

And while nobody could have predicted COVID, nor the life-altering changes that it would bring about, most of the heavy-lifting of this animatronic spectacle had already been undertaken by the time COVID shut down the Strip, earlier this year.  Meanwhile, because the show is so incredibly technologically advanced, when it came time for Woodroofe to “set” the lights, he was able to adhere to do so from his studio in London while on a ZOOM with Rick Gray (as Wynn’s GM of Entertainment Operations, Gray is the Lake of Dreams show’s feet-on-the-ground producer) and his team, while Ortega and Curry alternated being on-site.  Consider this Exhibit A for the next time someone tells you that they can’t do their job while socially distancing.

And while that’s certainly extraordinary, what really impresses me is the sheer scale of the Lake of Dreams and its characters.  A $14 million state-of-the-art upgrade spared nothing in this outdoor theater, with a 45-foot by 90-foot performance waterfall that serves as the focal point, around which wraps an 11-story mountain filled with 1,500 pine trees.  In addition to this, there’s an invisible overhead 3D fly-system, 4K video projectors, intricate laser mapping, interior projection floating video orbs, and more than 5,500 LED lights.  As for Curry’s puppets, some are more than 30-feet high and weigh more than 17,000 pounds, which they’d have to be, in order to be seen clearly from across that three-acre lake.

I was fortunate to have been invited backstage to see the mechanics of the new Lake of Dreams show, and again, the scale is just insane!  To give you an idea, my entire body could fit in the palm of the frog’s hand, with room to stretch out.  Nuts, right?  I felt a bit like Fay Wray (or Jessica Lange, if you prefer) when she was being palmed by King Kong!   What I found especially cool was when Gray took me out to view the lake from the wings.  There, gazing towards Lakeside, Parasol Down, and SW Steakhouse, I could see the rows and rows and rows of lights, submerged on the lake floor, and aimed at the waterfall. 

There are a dozen songs, ranging from Classical to Contemporary, each featuring a custom video directed and choreographed by Ortega that plays on the performance waterfall, and (depending on the song) on and/or over the water.  Each vignette also features one or more of Curry’s animatronic creations, and it’s all lit to the proverbial gods by Woodroofe et al. 

Come back for Part 2, where I take a deep dive into the dozen songs comprising the new Lake of Dreams show!

Lake of Dreams
Wynn Las Vegas
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[Editor’s Notes: Kenny Ortega is the Emmy-winning filmmaker, director, choreographer, and touring manager best-known for directing the films Hocus Pocus (1993), the High School Musical trilogy (2006 – 2008), and Michael Jackson’s This Is It (2009); for choreographing such films as Xanadu (1980), Pretty in Pink (1986), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), Dirty Dancing (1987), and To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995); and for overseeing concert tours for Michael Jackson, Cher, Gloria Estefan, and Miley Cyrus. // The principle of Michael Curry Design, Emmy-, Drama Desk-, and Tony-winning artist Michael Curry has been the go-to producer and builder of transformational scenery and large-scale puppetry for everyone from The Walt Disney Company, Cirque du Soleil, the Metropolitan Opera, and London’s Royal National Theatre, to The Olympics, Broadway’s The Lion King and concert tours for Madonna, Cher, Lady Gaga, and Britney Spears. // Parick Woodroofe OBE RDI of Woodroofe Bassett Design has been knighted for his contributions to lighting design.  Since the mid-Seventies, Woodroofe has lit such iconic artists as ABBA, Adele, Bob Dylan, The Eagles, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Lady Gaga, The Police, Simon and Garfunkel, Rod Stewart, Take That, and Stevie Wonder; as well as The Rolling Stones, for whom he’s served as the lighting designer and creative director for live shows since 1982.  Additionally, Woodroofe has overseen the lighting for Vanity Fair’s annual parties for the Academy Awards (Los Angeles) and Cannes Film Festival (Cannes) for nearly two decades.]

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