Cirque Du Soleil’s KA – Custom Theatrical Machinery

Standout Features

McLaren Engineering Group contributed technical and creative services for this multi-million-dollar, award-winning renovation of the MGM Grand Showroom for resident show “KA”. This Cirque du Soleil spectacular includes some of the world’s largest custom pieces of theatrical machinery.

A dynamic six-foot-tall sand cliff deck moves up to two feet per second, while the entire crane travels 70 feet vertically. At the same time its 25-by-50-foot performance platform rotates either clockwise or counter-clockwise and moves from a level position to a forward tilt of 100 degrees.

The tatami deck, registered at 75,000 pounds, has a 30-by-30-foot performance platform that slides out 48 feet. Using a two-stage mechanism, similar to a drawer slide, the system makes the platform appear as if it is floating.

The McLaren Difference: Applied Ingenuity

McLaren’s design pushed the envelope of theatrical machinery design, while adhering to acceptable measures of safety and reliability. This started with “parametric” studies of conceptual machinery solutions. The studies correlated cost with a range of variables (i.e., geometry, weight and speed versus horsepower), and assisted Cirque du Soleil with selecting systems that worked best for them.

McLaren worked on the Tatami Deck, Gantry Crane and its Sand/Cliff Deck, and provided project coordination through both construction and installation. For the 300,000-pound payload Gantry Crane, McLaren coordinated with eight firms on the design and construction. During its installation, McLaren worked alongside numerous fabricators, union trades and divisions of Cirque du Soleil’s production staff to maintain specific tolerances and the integrity of the design. McLaren successfully worked within the constraints of the production’s aggressive timetable to provide technical support and a creative vision for the machinery.

This project and its massive footprint triggered a complete reconstruction of the theater’s audience and performance spaces. McLaren provided the engineering for a variety of production rigging systems, house arbor guide seismic upgrades and supports for rigging elements throughout the project. The innovative, once-in-a-generation design came with a 15-year production expectancy and adhered to acceptable measures of safety and reliability.

In 2008, the project won the Thea Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement.