By Peter Iantorno
Craig Hartenstine, Executive Producer of La Perle, shares his vision for Dubai's first ever resident show
Al Habtoor City hosts Al Perle, a 90-minute live performance show that features 65 artists from 23 countries.
Created and produced by one of the world’s most renowned artistic directors, Franco Dragone, the show has wowed audiences who flock to see it, five days a week.
Can you tell us a bit about La Perle, for those who haven’t seen the show before?
La Perle is Dubai’s not-to-miss show featuring a breathtaking fusion of spellbinding artistry and mind-blowing technology that immerses audiences in a dreamlike world.
It is the region’s first Las Vegas-style resident show; 65 world-class artists perform La Perle up to twice a night, five nights a week, 48 weeks a year, every year in a state-of-the-art, tailor-made aqua theatre.
The show was created by legendary Artistic Director, Franco Dragone, famed for his work including Le Rêve, Celine Dion’s resident show A New Day… Live in Las Vegas and The House of Dancing Water in Macau, and brought to Dubai by Al Habtoor Group.
The performance is inspired by the themes of Dubai, depicting two worlds at the cross roads of heritage and tradition and technology and modernity.
How important is the unique venue to the success of the show?
La Perle’s unique theatre is instrumental in the success of the show. Without the theatre, the show couldn’t exist and vice versa.
From the specially designed walls, which act as a canvas for the spectacular 3D projection mapping to the water effects that transform the theatre and immerse audiences in this ever-changing, evocative world.
The technology used in the theatre is “future-proof”.
It is so advanced that our theatre is the first to use it, some of which has been created for the show itself. With La Perle being a resident show, the technology has to be able to go the distance and still be relevant and adaptable for 10 or more years to come.
It’s not just the stage that is vital to the show, the 270-degree seating provides a different perspective of the action unfolding in the aqua theatre. No seat is more than 14 rows from the action, making it quite an intimate and engaging performance space.
As important as the venue is, the raw talent of our artists is what makes it come to life. Dragone held castings in five countries: Australia, Cuba, USA, UK and Germany over two years to find the crème de la crème of artists.
It was imperative that they displayed a wide range of skills, as many of them have to perform more than one discipline.
How have the first few months since you opened gone?
The first few months of the show have been exceptional. During this time we’ve welcomed well over than 100,000 guests, not only from the UAE and GCC, but from all around the world.
We have already risen to the number one show in Dubai based on ratings on TripAdvisor thanks to the solid amount of positive reviews being posted daily.
How do you intend to keep the show fresh and relevant moving forward?
La Perle is a constantly evolving spectacle driven not by a linear narrative but by the talent, passion and relentless pursuit of the phenomenal – a pursuit that began over four years ago and will continue for decades to come. Technology evolves. New acts are dreamt of and brought to life. Our audiences push us to discover new heights and break new ground.
Why was Dubai and in particular Al Habtoor City chosen as the location?
In 2013, Franco Dragone premiered A Story of a Fort, A Legacy of a Nation in Abu Dhabi, paying homage to 250 years of Emirates history.
This began his interest in Emirati history and Bedouin culture. During this time, Mohammed Al Habtoor, Vice-Chairman and CEO of Al Habtoor Group, wanted to create a brand new source of entertainment for Dubai, in line with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision for 2020 and was so charmed by Dragone’s previous shows, that he asked Franco Dragone to create a show dedicated to Dubai, and that’s how La Perle first came to fruition.
As with all Dragone shows, Franco takes inspiration from the region in which he is building the show. Dragone fuses the world’s best human talents, artistic disciplines and technical innovations to bring local stories alive and immerse audiences in the ultimate spectator experience.
And the show itself is the centrepiece of a larger stage, Al Habtoor City; the experience begins well before the curtain opens and extends to well after the audience leaves its seats.
How does working on something like La Perle compare to the other projects you’ve been a part of?
I have been very fortunate in my career to have worked in just about every major genre in entertainment. It has taken me around the world and allowed me to work alongside some of the most talented artists and performers on stage today.
Nothing compares to watching a genius like Franco Dragone bring a masterpiece like La Perle to life. It was a thrill to finally be able to help bring Dubai the first Las Vegas-style resident show to the region and an honour to do so with the amazing Dragone and Al Habtoor teams.
What challenges does the Middle East present that are different from other places in the world?
As the first resident show in the region, we’re constantly learning about our audiences. There really is no previous benchmark for consumers to reference when it comes to permanent shows.
Being a show that’s based in the Middle East, but targeted to audiences all around the world, we’re having to create multiple marketing strategies targeted to each sector. A challenge we face weekly is, as Dubai grows and becomes an all-encompassing tourist destination – we have an audience that’s changing every three to five days, so we have to reintroduce ourselves to this ever-changing market.
What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?
That’s an easy one… our biggest achievement is the smiles on the audience’s faces at each and every performance.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far?
As one who has launched and run large entertainment companies all over the world, the biggest challenge is always keeping an open mind and not letting experience get in the way of a clear perspective; taking the first Western show to China after the Cultural Revolution would be a close second and anticipating the actions of young and wilful pop stars would be third.
How do you see La Perle developing in the future?
Dubai’s live entertainment industry is developing rapidly and we see La Perle as one of its cornerstones. I am not just talking about commercially and helping to establish Dubai as the live entertainment epicentre of the region, but more culturally.
We look forward to collaborating with others in the region to inspire and develop future talent, to encourage children to pursue careers in the performing arts where they can achieve more than they ever thought possible while bringing joy to audiences around the world. Now, that would really be something.