Wynn Las Vegas’ Awakening Brings Epic Set Pieces and Giant Puppets for Otherworldly Show

Courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas

I was sitting inside a round theater that surrounded the stage from all sides. The lights dimmed with the spotlight revealing two dreamlike puppets. It was a wonderful fusion of smoke, lighting and puppetry that conveyed a magical tale from long ago as Anthony Hopkins narrates. The two beings, Light and Darkness, lived in harmony, but that would soon change as the audience watches it all shatter in front of them. This sets up an adventure with live actors and performers, taking viewers into three different and unique worlds filled with practical special effects. From that moment on, I knew I was in for a unique ride with Wynn Las Vegas’ Awakening, which incorporated animated dancing, magic acts, singing, tantalizing costumes, wild sets, giant puppets, and mesmerizing props.

Las Vegas is home to many live shows, and with so many options, Wynn Las Vegas aimed to do something different. Back in 2005, it opened La Rêve, an aquatic show with dancing, swimming, gymnastics, diving and stunts inside a theater-in-the-round stage. It lasted until 2020. Fast-forward to 2022, the hotel and casino company has opened up a new show, Awakening, with a remodeled theater and a stage that can rotate and rise.

The main story is set thousands of years after Light was shattered, with his shards flying to three different realms: the Light of Water, the Light of Earth, and the Light of Air. Luckily, IO, Bandit and Boo, a trio of thieves, have sneaked into Darkness’ ball, and their discovery of magic will thrust them into a quest to restore Light.

Courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas

Awakening is directed and produced by Baz Halpin, who has worked on Super Bowl halftime shows and produced, directed and designed concerts for musicians like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and Harry Styles. On board as a character designer is producer Michael Curry, known for his work on The Lion King on Broadway. One of the most important ingredients of the show is the music, which was brought to life by composer Brian Tyler (The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Yellowstone, Avengers: Age of Ultron).

Halpin wanted a composer who could create an electronic and hip-hop production while also composing the score with an orchestra. Tyler is one such composer, and it was a match made in Heaven. It also doesn’t hurt that the musical artist was also a fan of magic.

“My other two loves since I was a kid growing up was magic,” Tyler tells Nerd Reactor. “I would do magic shows. I would do parties, I would do illusions. I looked up to all the close-up magicians to the illusionists. I knew the history of magic. I had Robert-Houdin’s book and also Harry Houdini, and all these things. Also, since I was a kid, I was a breaker and pop and locker and a dancer, and I choreographed and did all that. So basically, the three elements of this show were the three things that I artistically have not just cut my teeth on, but I’ve dedicated my life to. Even my show ‘Are We Dreaming’ has choreography and dancers that I was doing in parallel with Awakening.”

Courtesy of Wynn Las Vegas

With film, the composer usually comes in post-production. For Awakening, it was the opposite. Tyler was working on the show before the staging process, and as he was writing the music, he sat down with writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and Halpin to hash out story ideas.

“You’re in one world, and it takes you on this journey,” Tyler said. “Then the main characters go to the next world, and it takes you on that journey. But that’s all we have. So it was kind of like, we would sit around, and it’s really like story building and world building. Now I would start writing the music, the onset of just to see even an idea where sometimes they wouldn’t even know exactly how you get from point A to point B, but the music then would come alive, and it would dictate the tone of it. And all of a sudden, the story takes its cues from the music.

“And of course, all the choreography, like Nolan Padilla, and all the great choreographers and dancers would come after the music. And even a lot of the costume design would be altered. When they would hear this, ‘Oh my gosh, this sounds more tribal, or more hip hop, or more magical,’ or whatever it might be. I was on it for two and a half years. As this process would happen, we would see what it would look like and then I might tweak the music to emphasize this moment that we didn’t know would exist at the time. I wrote the music in the first place. And it just evolved, and that was very much a living breathing thing.”

Awakening is now staying at Wynn Las Vegas, and the music will be living on as the audience watch the performances. It’s something that Tyler doesn’t take lightly.

“When it’s told through music, it’s a big responsibility for me,” the composer explained. “Because I realized that every emotion that’s going to be felt out there by people that see it for years, twice a night, at the beautiful theater at the Wynn, they’re hearing that music. And that is what’s guiding their entire experience, in a way, unlike any other type of form of entertainment, literally from concert to movie to anything.”

Nightly shows for the Awakening are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are available at WynnLasVegas.com.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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