Behind the scenes at La Perle

1 / 4
La Perle is the first of its kind in the region. (Photo supplied)
2 / 4
La Perle is the first of its kind in the region. (Photo supplied)
3 / 4
La Perle is the first of its kind in the region. (Photo supplied)
4 / 4
La Perle is the first of its kind in the region. (Photo supplied)
Updated 07 April 2018

Behind the scenes at La Perle

  • The story behind the acrobatics and daredevilry of the Middle East’s first residential entertainment show
  • La Perle is a remarkable combination of logistics, machinery and human endeavor

DUBAI: Created by Franco Dragone, a legend of showbusiness, La Perle is the first of its kind in the region: A permanent live show performed in a purpose-built theater. It’s a dazzling combination of acrobatics — both aerobic and aquatic; daredevil stunts (including a frankly terrifying ‘wall of death’ tribute by five motorcyclists); eye-catching visual trickery; and cutting-edge technology.
Team leaders describe the show as a baby birthed by Dragone, which they are now looking after and nurturing.
“We are the nannies of the show,” Elisa Petrolo, the head choreographer, said with a laugh. “So we have a certain amount of creative freedom, but the skeleton or structure of the show doesn’t change. Over time though, we have introduced some changes.”
These changes can vary from small details the audience will barely notice —specific movements or the number of people in a scene — to the introduction of new elements requiring the combined efforts of the artistic team, technical team, rigging department, programming, video, lights, and music, which can take up to six months to put together.

The hi-tech theater, while one of the highlights of the show, is also one of the biggest challenges for the team. “The creation came together while the theater was being built. And we wanted to show everything this space could do, so that is certainly challenging,” Petrolo said.
The stage has hydraulic pumps underneath, which allows it to transform from a wet stage, soaked by artificial rain showers from elevated sprinklers, to a dry one within minutes.
The giant mashrabiya-inspired doors suspended from the ceiling — which weigh six tons each — are another highlight, creating instant drama on stage. The control panels for lighting, 3D-projection mapping, and 360-degree sound systems, meanwhile, are like something NASA might have designed, but all are a vital part of the canvas on which the performing artists weave their magic.
The most thrilling aspect of the show, though, is the central pool, from which performers appear — and disappear — as if by magic. A peek into its inner workings reveals that the five-meter deep pool leads to a canal — with breathing stations every 1.5 meters — through which they can enter and exit out of sight of the audience.

The pool is not only a source of amazement for viewers; it has apparently also provided much amusement for the performers. Petrolo recalled an incident during the show’s creation when one of the main characters, Reda — who is dressed in a fat suit, was asked to roll along the ground towards the pool. He obliged, expecting other cast members to improvise and catch him in time. They didn’t.
“Suddenly, there was this big meringue, in his huge king’s costume, floating in the pool,” Petrolo said.

Safety is naturally paramount in shows such as these. All performers are trained divers, and all grips and harnesses are checked and re-checked multiple times before each performance. And, so far, the ambulance that is always on standby has never been required, although the fully equipped first aid center has been called into use a few times, for minor bumps and sprains.
The labyrinthine backstage space is home to a gym, fitness center, and dance studio, and even a fully equipped carpentry studio where most of the props are manufactured.
During non-show hours, there is a relaxed vibe backstage, which has become a second home for team-members (we can only imagine how frenetic it must get during the show, however). Watching the artists rehearse and work out is mesmerizing, as you really get to see the extreme physical rigors of the job, which, during the show, are often masked by all the bells and whistles.
Performers roles are designated according to their individual skills. Age and experience counts for less here than sheer talent.
It’s a lot like a sports team actually. Mornings are typically quite relaxed, and after lunch, the performers start to focus, getting into rehearsal mode; focusing on parts of the show that may need tweaking or improving. Some might choose to work out as well. Next comes the dinner break. And then, it’s show time — five nights a week.
La Perle is a remarkable combination of logistics, machinery and human endeavor. Before the show launched, Dragone described it as a living, breathing entity that is meant to grow from a baby into an adult. Thanks to his talented team, working under his watchful eye, his baby is well on its way to a long and happy life.

FASTFACTS

Did you know?

There are 65 performers in the show from 23 different countries


From the UAE to Jordan, viral songs keep thousands entertained during self-isolation

Emirati social media star Rashid Al-Nuaimi has become a viral sensation. (Instagram/@r__a__n)
Updated 30 March 2020

From the UAE to Jordan, viral songs keep thousands entertained during self-isolation

DUBAI: From singing opera on their balconies to performing online concerts, musicians all around the globe are finding different ways to keep themselves — and others — entertained while self-isolating at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Some are doing their part by rewriting the lyrics to their favorite songs into COVID-19 parodies, while others are creating clever new compositions to bring a little levity to these unprecedented times.

Emirati social media star Rashid Al-Nuaimi has become a viral sensation after taking to his Instagram on Sunday to upload a coronavirus-themed song about being bored in quarantine.

View this post on Instagram

What a moment to be alive. So many emotions take place at the same exact time. It’s important however to remind ourselves that we are all in this together. The world comes together for once in a common cause, and I personally will aim to not let this tragic scenario send me into a pit of fear, but use it to dig for every ounce of love. Love is expressed is many ways, and right now it’s expressed by staying at home. We will come out of the other side of this changed humans! Changed for the better. So let’s start being better now and stay home. My heart is filled with gratitude for every effort and risk the people are taking to protect the whole! Thank you to food delivery drivers, thank you to nurses and hospital workers, thank you to government officials who are working day and night to keep us safe. Thank you thank you thank you! #خلك_في_البيت Piano credit / Sing2piano

A post shared by Rashed راشد (@r__a__n) on

“Has it been a month/No it’s only been a day,” croons the singer, who is surrounded by a pile of books and a cup of tea while wearing yellow sweatpants paired with a hoodie. “I read through a pile of self-help books/ The Uber Eats on the way,” continue the ultra-relatable lyrics.

“Bored in quarantine/I’ll sit with the parts of myself that I have never seen/I’ll be bored in quarantine/I know for a fact, it’ll all be over one day/So I’ll stay in today,” the young jazz singer belts out.

As of this week, the musical clip has garnered nearly 30,000 views and over 200 comments. “Love this. Embracing individual boredom for the greater good,” wrote one user. “Thank you for making this,” quipped another user.

Meanwhile, Jordanian choir The Mosaica Singers came together online to record the song “Khalik bil Bait,” which translates to “stay at home.” 

Legendary singer Neil Diamond remixed his own song, “Sweet Caroline” with some new lyrics, while former “The Voice” contestant Chris Mann released a brilliant coronavirus parody based on Adele’s “Hello,” wittingly titled “Hello (From Inside).”

During troubled times, people often turn to music for comfort, a distraction or to calm the nerves. The coronavirus crisis has produced several moments of musical communion across the globe, including in Italy, where countless online videos have captured scenes of Italians under lockdown playing instruments and singing from apartment windows and balconies. Last week, actress Gal Gadot posted her own Instagram video — a montage of celebrities taking turns to croon John Lennon’s “Imagine” into their cellphone cameras.