Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Theatre & Dance

First Advisor

Oliver Gerland

Second Advisor

Bud Coleman

Third Advisor

Markas Henry

Fourth Advisor

Zachary Keller Zachary

Fifth Advisor

Amma Y. Ghartey-Tagoe


This dissertation examines Cirque du Soleil from its inception as a small band of street performers to the global entertainment machine it is today. The study focuses most closely on the years 1993–2012 and the shows that Cirque has produced in Las Vegas. Driven by Las Vegas’s culture of spectacle, Cirque uses elaborate stage technology to support the wordless acrobatics for which it is renowned. By so doing, the company has raised the bar for spectacular entertainment in Las Vegas.

I explore the beginning of Cirque du Soleil in Québec and the development of its world-tours. I also discuss the history of entertainment in Las Vegas from the early years when it was regarded as a wild frontier town to the internationally recognized tourist destination of today. I then detail the seven Cirque du Soleil shows currently in residence in Las Vegas: Mystère, “O”, , Zumanity, Love, Criss Angel Believe, and Viva Elvis/Zarkana.

The work concludes with an exploration of the future of Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas and the future of Las Vegas entertainment as a result of Cirque’s presence there. It has been stated that Cirque plans to have a show in every Las Vegas strip venue. I discuss the feasibility of this plan while considering the notion that Cirque has saturated not only the Las Vegas market, but the world market as well. Finally, I consider how the works presented by Cirque have changed Las Vegas entertainment.