As the entrance door opens and I join other guests to the hall, I struggle to comprehend where I am. I am booked for an evening theatrical performance, but the huge edifice and its intimidating space make me think I am in one of those stylishly built stadia for a sold-out football derby match.
Graciously, the timely announcement by the organisers brings me back to reality. “Gentlemen and ladies, make sure you are well-seated and phones switched off, the show is starting in five minutes. Please do enjoy the best and first ever water theatre show in Dubai and the Gulf region,” the announcer says.
Within the five minutes, I keep looking around and beholding the theatre in awe. It is a magnificent auditorium that hosts La Perle by Dragone, Dubai’s #1 show. It features 1,300 premium seats, a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system and an innovative 860sqm stage.
The 1,300-seat theatre only contains 14 rows, which offers an intimate experience and gets the audience face-to-face with the action.
While still being captivated by the humongous theatre facility located in the heart of Dubai at Al Habtoor City, a guest on my row offers more reasons to watch the live show. “If this is your first time, you will be thrilled because Franco Dragone, the legendary artistic director and creator of the show, is famed for his work including Le Rêve in Las Vegas and The House of Dancing Water in Macau. He will replicate the excitement this evening”, the guest says.
Moments later, the floodlights beam, big bang opens a huge gate and the massive theatre beams with life. A group of heavily costumed performers start the show with a teaser. They climb unimaginable platforms, creating awe-inspiring stunts, while still maintain balance. There were exclamations from the audience that thinks the act is extreme, but enjoys it as it progresses.
While they disappear as the flood lights go off, the stage takes another shape when the lights beam again. This time, waterfall from the walls of the theatre, and other high platforms surprise the audience. “Is this real”, someone asks. Of course, it is. While the water falls, about 15 gymnasts emerge from nowhere and cascade down alongside the water. But when they are about to touch the theatre ground, an invisible lift take them to another height for repeat action. It is like an eagle flying alongside an aircraft or wild shark in a chase for a prey. But despite the swiftness, the precision is commendable.
Yet, the audience witnesses the stage flood with water; it is water everywhere and overflowing the stage as the artists perform mind-blowing aqua and aerial feats. It is wonderful to behold, and the creative ingenuity, the strength and passion to entertain by the artists are all commendable. But the intrigue is that the water, which floods the stage a moment ago, drains in a matter of seconds.
As exciting as the show is, some members of the audience keep screaming all through because of the sustained action and how daring the artists are. There is one moment everybody in the theatre screams: when the gymnasts are taking turns to dive from 25 metres high platform inside a water pool at the base of the theatre.
Most people fear that someone may fall mistakenly and that might mean death. But such never happened as the artists are professionals with many years of training, rehearsals and fitness checks.
If the action of the performers who dive into the pool on stage and those flying through the theatre at spectacular heights did not thrill you, there is one that is a bang.
When big round balls were emerging from the air, the audience never thought of any uncommon thing beyond jumping and flying around them. But they were speechless when some courageous fellows defy gravity by riding motorbikes inside the suspended balls.
The special effects truly leave many speechless while a few were cheering and praying for safe ride because of the fast-paced action of four bikes inside one big ball, riding and had no crash. Like a stopwatch, they stop same second and get off the ball and still perform some stunts on the theatre floor.
“Thank God they are now safe on the floor,” someone says in relief, going by the adrenalin rush courtesy of the fast-paced ride by the skilful motorbike riders.
The show later stages a kind of drama where funny characters spice and balance the fast-paced and adrenalin pumping actions with a stage play with its theme around love, care and protection that keep the audience laughing.
But in all these, the audience feel embedded with the artists and the various performances as the 270-degree seating provides a different perspective of the action unfolding in the tailor-made aqua theatre.
Yet the theatre is one of a kind venue as the audience is immersed as every surface becomes a screen, with 3D projections on the walls, floors and giant cyclorama. The captivating sounds surround the stage by high definition speakers, which are embedded in the walls behind every seat and in the centre of the auditorium are amazing.
At the end of the over two hours La Perle by Dragone live theatre show, the audience unanimously agree that it is Dubai’s #1 show.
Many say it is “one of a kind theatrical experience,” others think it is “immersive experience”, but unarguably, La Perle by Dragone is unlike any other theatre in the world.
While outside the theatre, an official says La Perle by Dragone is the first of its kind aqua theatre in Dubai, which holds 2.7 million litres of water, and magically transforms from dry to wet stage in an instant.
However, credit goes to Al Habtoor Group, which brought the show to Dubai and made Al Habtoor City the permanent location for the show. Al Habtoor City, which sits alongside the newly launched Dubai Water Canal, is a multi-use development incorporating three five-star hotels (Habtoor Palace, LXR Hotels & Resorts, V Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton and Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City), alongside three luxury residential towers.
So, Al Habtoor City is a new offering in Dubai, while its La Perle by Dragone is a must-watch show anytime you visit Dubai.