DIN­NER THE­ATER

Wynn Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Mark Ell­wood

Sur­pris­ing vi­gnettes, spec­tac­u­lar foun­tains, a ki­netic sculp­ture—at the restau­rants of Wynn Palace, the de­lights aren’t limited to the plate.

Sur­pris­ing vi­gnettes, spec­tac­u­lar foun­tains, a ki­netic sculp­ture—at the restau­rants of Wynn Palace, the de­lights aren’t limited to the plate.

“i call it im­mer­sive din­ner the­ater,” says pro­duc­tion De­signer michael Curry, the cre­ative mas­ter­mind of this mold-break­ing at­trac­tion. When Wynn palace was in the plan­ning stages and steve Wynn tasked him with de­sign­ing a din­ner show, Curry ad­mits that he shook his head. “i hate con­ven­tional din­ner the­ater,” he says, “be­cause you feel com­pelled to give per­form­ers your at­ten­tion and so feel rude en­joy­ing your din­ner.” so he sug­gested a more cre­ative ap­proach. he said, “‘let’s do it with­out hu­man per­form­ers but still create mu­si­cal the­ater.’ mr. Wynn loved that idea.” The re­sult is this ground­break­ing en­ter­tain­ment com­bin­ing com­me­dia dell’arte, mar­i­onettes, and cus­tom com­puter pro­grams (the pro­gram that co­or­di­nates the move­ment and mu­sic for those play­ing cards is also used in Le Rêve—the Dream at Wynn las Ve­gas). such show­man­ship is in­te­gral to any Wynn project—af­ter all, this is the hote­lier who named two re­sorts en­core and a restau­rant il Teatro. But the sw steak­house show may be the ul­ti­mate ex­pres­sion of Wynn’s com­mit­ment to ground­ing his ho­tels in per­for­mance. “When you walk into one of mr. Wynn’s re­sorts, you’re al­ready on­stage,” Curry ex­plains. “he doesn’t think about cre­at­ing lit­tle pock­ets of con­ven­tional per­for­mance. it’s about see­ing the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence, as well as your in­ter­ac­tion with it, as an ex­ten­sion of the per­for­mance. it’s the ul­ti­mate in­ter­ac­tive en­vi­ron­ment.” The same sense of the­atri­cal­ity is sub­tly in­cor­po­rated into Wynn palace’s new Wing lei Bar, a mir­rored hide­out serv­ing 50 hand­picked teas and a se­lec­tion of fine Cog­nacs, among other beverages. Topped by a vin­tage crys­tal chan­de­lier, the space evokes in every guest the feel­ing that he or she is the jewel in a pre­cious box, or a song­bird in a bird­cage (as you might imag­ine, there’s no bet­ter place to tweet a photo). even at mizumi, the ul­tra­luxe sushi restau­rant whose in­te­ri­ors were fash­ioned by min­i­mal­ist de­signer Vicente Wolf, the fo­cal point of the din­ing room is show­man­ship—in the form of a gilded 500-piece blos­som­ing cherry tree. as the room dark­ens, it pulses through four sea­sons in a few min­utes † The first Time it hap­pens, it’s star­tling. The gleam­ing wall pan­els slide silently open, re­veal­ing a dark­ened stage. next, the mu­sic starts—a full-throated french chan­son, per­haps, or richard Bur­ton and Julie an­drews per­form­ing their duet “What Do the sim­ple folk Do?” from Camelot. Then the lights go down and the show be­gins. But at Wynn palace’s sw steak­house, don’t ex­pect con­ven­tional din­ner the­ater. in­stead, the fully equipped stage (com­plete with fly loft and wings) presents a va­ri­ety of amus­ing vi­gnettes, each last­ing sev­eral min­utes—just long enough to give din­ers a di­vert­ing pause—in a cut­ting-edge fu­sion of com­puter an­i­ma­tion, pup­petry, and an­i­ma­tron­ics. some are play­ful, oth­ers lyri­cal. see King Kong be­sot­ted by a mys­tery ob­ject that’s no scream­ing fay Wray, or a huge vase that shim­mers with pen-and-ink an­i­ma­tions based on Chi­nese folk tales and pro­jected as if they’re hap­pen­ing in real time, or a pair of 10-foot-high play­ing cards (a king and a queen, of course) danc­ing and singing in a lush gar­den. a vi­gnette is re­vealed every 30 min­utes in the se­cret the­ater hid­den in the walls of sw steak­house, so that a diner lin­ger­ing over a meal might ex­pe­ri­ence three or four dif­fer­ent playlets.

“Walk­ing into a re­sort like Wynn Palace, it’s no less fan­tas­tic than a hol­ly­wood Movie.” — michael curry

in a bril­liant dis­play of light and color, like a sculp­tural mime. The­atri­cal show kitchens en­hance the guest ex­pe­ri­ence at An­drea’s as well as 99 Noo­dles, where amidst an il­lu­mi­nated dis­play of rain­bow col­ored resin bowls on white open-shelved book­cases and modern lan­tern sculp­tures dan­gling from above, din­ers can watch mas­ter chefs hand-pulling dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties of noo­dles to or­der— in­clud­ing the fa­vorite of Chef Shi Wei Dong, a noo­dle dra­mat­i­cally whit­tled from a mas­sive ball of dough with a saber-sharp knife. Per­haps the keen­est ex­am­ples of per­for­mance ef­fort­lessly in­te­grat­ing into every as­pect of Wynn Palace are the restau­rants Wing Lei Palace and Café Fon­tana. Both oc­cupy the ho­tel’s most im­por­tant real es­tate: di­rectly fac­ing the 8-acre lake where foun­tains, chore­ographed to mu­sic, dance up to 200 feet in the air every 20 min­utes. The restau­rant’s rooms are stepped so that no table’s view of the show will be blocked by other din­ers. In fact, Wing Lei Palace’s pri­vate din­ing rooms were in­spired by opera boxes, with a prosce­nium pro­vid­ing a frame and cur­tains that can be drawn when the show con­cludes (all that’s miss­ing are opera glasses). At Café Fon­tana, the French mar­ket­place-in­spired space feels like a set from Gigi or An Amer­i­can in Paris, yet it of­fers sub­tle but im­por­tant de­sign con­ces­sions to the show. “Look at all the re­flec­tive sur­faces,” says Wynn De­sign & De­vel­op­ment Cre­ative Di­rec­tor Alex Woog­mas­ter, one of the project’s lead de­sign­ers. “There’s not just gold, but mir­rors, high pol­ishes, and mar­bles. It’s so that even if you’re not fac­ing the lake, we can bring that vi­sion to you just the same: As the foun­tains are ex­plod­ing, they’re pulled into the room with lit­tle glimpses here and there.” Wynn Re­sorts has em­pha­sized im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences from the out­set, but to­day they’re a gen­uine cul­tural trend. “We’re al­ways talk­ing about in­ter­ac­tiv­ity and break­ing the fourth wall now in the­ater these days,” says Curry, “but Mr. Wynn has got­ten that for 30 years. Walk­ing into a re­sort like Wynn Palace, it’s no less fan­tas­tic than a Hol­ly­wood movie.” Such im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ences are man­i­fes­ta­tions of an in­creas­ing global trend to­ward in­volv­ing the au­di­ence in the pro­duc­tion—a trend long­time pro­ducer Vance Gar­ret at­tributes partly to a fun­da­men­tal change in con­sumers.“in the In­ter­net age,” he says, “where peo­ple feel like they can par­tic­i­pate in, or com­ment on, al­most any­thing, this is what modern au­di­ences want.” Need­less to say, that’s some­thing that Steve Wynn un­der­stands in­tu­itively.

A spec­tac­u­lar flow­er­ing cherry tree in Mizumi shim­mers with hun­dreds of lights that change with the “sea­son” through­out the evening.

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