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A Cirque du Soleil performance of Mystère at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

LAURA RAUCH/AP

Cirque du Soleil is planning to reopen four shows starting in late June as it tries to piece back together a business crushed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The famed circus troupe said it will begin selling tickets starting Wednesday for the first show to reopen, its Mystère production at the Treasure Island hotel and casino in Las Vegas on June 28. That will be followed a few days later by the restart of its water-themed show O, another resident show in that city, the company said in a statement. Two touring shows will reopen after that, in November and January.

“Almost 400 days have passed since we had to take a temporary hiatus, and we have been anxiously awaiting our return to the stage,” Cirque chief executive officer Daniel Lamarre said. “I just can’t wait to see the lights go back on.”

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Restarting in Las Vegas is easier for Cirque than in other places because the cast and crew live in the city. The pace of vaccination also helps. The United States is averaging more than three million COVID-19 shots a day, and half of U.S. adults have now received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cirque filed for creditor protection on June 30 in Canada and shortly afterward in the United States after revenue fell to nearly zero in the spring. The company, which depends on crowds paying often big sums to watch its live shows, shut down 44 productions and laid off 4,679 employees on March 19, 2020, to comply with government-mandated bans on public gatherings.

The Montreal-based company is now controlled by its creditors, who bought Cirque in a transaction valued at about US$1.2-billion, including a US$375-million injection of new money and the elimination of about US$900-million of debt. Quebec’s Economy Minister Éric Girard has called the outcome “sad” and said Cirque’s controlling shareholder, Catalyst Capital, is “not aligned” with the interests of the government, reflecting its unease with how things have turned out for one of the province’s top cultural institutions.

The new owners are increasing their bet on Vegas for Cirque, where it has permanent shows. Through the pandemic, Cirque management signed commitments to extend existing performance contracts by another nine years with casino operator MGM Resorts and another 10 years with Phil Ruffin’s Treasure Island hotel and casino, Mr. Lamarre has said.

Cirque’s new co-chairman, Jim Murren, is a former CEO of international resort giant MGM and will play a key role as Cirque deepens its presence in the city.

Before the pandemic, the company counted on its partnership with MGM for about 35 per cent of its US$950-million annual revenue, according to a Moody’s Investors Service estimate.

Moody’s in December gave Cirque a debt rating that is deep in junk territory, despite fresh capital from its new owners, assigning a Caa1 rating to Cirque du Soleil’s recapitalized corporate profile, one of its lowest levels possible, and also classified the company’s outlook as negative. The ratings service cited a number of concerns, including uncertain timing for restarting shows, weak liquidity and high debt, and a “substantial concentration” of Cirque du Soleil’s business in Las Vegas.

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