It’s three days before the November 3 opening of Voltaire at Venetian Las Vegas, and Kylie Minogue, whose residency will launch the venue, is in her dressing room waiting on one last important detail.
“We’ve entertained ourselves enough,” she tells Variety backstage as she prepares for another rehearsal. “Now, we need the magic ingredient: people.”
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Since announcing a long-anticipated Las Vegas residency in July, Minogue has been working full throttle with her team — choreographer Ashley Wallen, production designer Rob Sinclar and music director Steve Anderson — to create a performance for Voltaire. The new 1,000-person theatrical nightlife concept will bring her closer to her fans than ever before.
The devotion of her fans is palpable: The first run of dates sold out within in minutes, with concertgoers paying anywhere from $200 for standing-room-only tickets to four-figure table minimums for shows.
Minogue has played arenas for so long that she says she didn’t fully realize just how intimate one can get in a theater — people will be practically sitting on the stage as they drink Kylie Rosé. “You see it on paper but it’s much different than what I’m used to,” she says.
Being able to work in the same space day in and day out as a resident artist has given Minogue the freedom to explore the room and build a creative work around audience interaction.
“When you go see Kylie in an arena — she’s over there. It’s a huge spectacle,” says Wallen, who has been dancing with Minogue since he was 17. “[At Voltaire] we have to make sure that everyone gets their time with her.”
In this new 75-minute set, Minogue takes her audience on a trip through her five-decade-long career.
“It’s hedonism, escapism, joy, rapture, all those things that you want in a show,” she says.
Wallen shares that he created fresh choreography for all but two numbers in the setlist, which stretches from her breakthrough 1987 cover of “Locomotion” (released when she was just 18) to 1994’s “Confide in Me,” 2000’s “Spinning Around,” 2010’s “All the Lovers, 2020’s “Supernova” and topped off with last summer’s smash “Padam Padam.”
In a nod to the great Las Vegas icons, she even has both Liberace and Elvis moments.
Voltaire creator and producer Michael Gruber says he envisions the experience as a one-stop evening to enjoy cabaret performances, see a concert with a superstar, and party into the night with a DJ. By design it breaks the fourth wall as the entertainment spills over from the grand stage to the T-shaped runway to dance platforms among the banquette seating. If ticket-buyers want a seat they also have to cover a table minimum, where you can order bottle service and caviar.
Eschewing the traditional Las Vegas residency where you pay to see one performance for 90 minutes, Minogue’s offering is bookended by Belle de Nuit, a sensational original Parisian-style cabaret that performs at Voltaire regardless of who is headlining.
The venue’s nightly programme night starts after 9 p.m. with the first act of Belle de Nuit, or Beauty of the Night, made up of four vignettes, followed by a DJ interlude, then a second act with another four scenes and DJ break. On nights when there is a headliner, that set comes next for 75-minutes, followed by a late-night party with more cabaret. When there is no headliner, Belle de Nuit takes center stage.
Belle de Nuit is the creation of show director Manon Savary and artistic director Marc Zaffuto. Gruber first met the duo when he visited Manko Cabaret at Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. Their melding of dance, circus, striptease, contemporary art, fashion, drag, burlesque struck him as a formula that would work in Las Vegas. He recruited them to develop an experience that would be like no other on the Strip.
“We all had the feeling that this type of format was missing. It was a perfect crossover in between live cabaret with close proximity to the audience, and, of course, the cherry on top is the headliners,” Savary says.
“We always have a guideline of what we want to propose to the audience,” Savary continues. “The core of it is disco, because it brings people together, it makes people beautiful. It’s transgenerational so it links everybody.
Gruber characterizes Voltaire as an artist-first venue, whether it’s Minogue on the stage or the dozen performers of Belle de Nuit.
“It’s important for us that every artist has a solo moment,” Savary says.
Wallen is the common thread, unifying Minogue’s content with Belle de Nuit. He created 30 routines between the two. To embark on the movement design, he went to Paris and met Marc and Manon and they shared with him the seed-ideas for the vignettes. With that artist-first perspective in mind, once he met the cast they started creating.
“It ended up being probably one of the most exciting, biggest artistic opportunities that we’ve ever come across in our lives,” says James, a hand-balancing acrobat.
Tying Minogue’s performance into Belle de Nuit, a “Cosmic Flying pole” act from duo Jessica and Charlee makes an appearance and other cabaret members join her dance team.
Having an opener like Belle de Nuit is new for Minogue.
“It’s been really fun being part of the birth of this place and having a real vested interest in Voltaire as a whole,” Minogue says. “It’s an investment from all of us, committing to it and believing in the project. Ideas are cheap, and anything on paper looks possible, but making it a reality … everyone’s here for the common purpose. We’re always open and excited about expanding and discovering new worlds. I really think Voltaire has done that. If I jump forward 5 to 10 years from now, I will look back on this go wow that was really something.”
When Minogue first saw the room in person she thought had a very strong opinion. “I love it. I think it looks like CGI. It’s really a treasure,” she says.
Emmy and Tony Award winning production designer Derek McLane (“Moulin Rouge,” “MJ on Broadway,” the Academy Awards, 2023 Met Gala.) transformed the Venetian’s former Opaline Theater, which previously housed Blue Man Group and Rock of Ages, into Voltaire’s modern-day art deco fantasy.
Ripping out the traditional theater seating, McLane took references from old Vegas showrooms with banquet and cocktail-table seating. “It was partly from movies and photographs that I’ve seen, but it’s also a little bit in my imagination, what I wanted a Las Vegas lounge to feel like. What would be the ultimate Las Vegas fantasy?”
The room is cast in a rose glow, accented by mirrored Art Deco starbursts — some small, some giant —and a massive proscenium arch of the same material.
Onstage visuals come from a rear projection screen, which further softens the content, giving it an archival feel. The carpet and wallpaper all feature the venue’s symbol, the flower of the night. There is even a signature scent created in France.
Belle de Nuit as a solo show debuts Sunday, Nov. 5 with more performances to be added in 2024. Christina Aguilera comes to Voltaire in December for a series of dates starting New Year’s Eve weekend through March 2.
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