Guitarist doesn't miss day of Vegas Cirque work

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — It's easy to miss Bruce Rickerd during the "Mystere" show at Treasure Island especially when there's a man balancing upside-down on the foot of another, or a giant inflatable snail emerging from the massive moving stage or the gasp-inducing drops from acrobats above.

But he's there — up high on the right or rather, stage left — playing guitar in just about the same place he's been for every one of the 10,000 shows come Saturday in the 21-year history of "Mystere" as he and the rest of the band tie the music and sound effects to action on stage.

That's right. He's never missed a day of work.

It never occurred to the 62-year-old musician to do otherwise.

"This is not work for me," he said days before he would be feted Saturday with confetti canons and an onstage finale bow where a Guinness Book of World Records judge is expected to say Rickerd has broken the record for most theatrical performances by a male musician. Granted, it'll be for having performed in 9,958 shows, still the most, as the record-keeping body continues to pour through timesheets and employee records that might backup Rickerd's involvement in the remaining 42 shows. Copious stage manager notes from each performance over the years helped to confirm quite a bit, with Rickerd's name never listed on the "out" list.

The musician is down to earth about his accolade. A member of the show joked that he's got Cal Ripken Jr., who played 2,632 consecutive baseball games for the Baltimore Orioles, beat.

Rickerd said he knows being an athlete or an acrobat on stage each night carries a higher risk of injury.

Anyone looking for a secret to Rickerd's longevity, including his ability to avoid catching a bug requiring a sick day, or a routine that was a motivational key, won't get one.

There's no secret, no routine. Unless you count his regularity to arrive at work and attend the sound check, eat and get his costume on before the show. And he didn't plan to do anything differently in the days leading up to his record-breaking appearance.

How does he do it then?

"It's very simple. You show up," he said.

When he discovered he had a herniated disc a couple weeks before the production went dark in January one year, he showed up.

There was that one time, though, that his usual 20-minute commute turned into two-and-a-half hours, and he got to the theater with 10 minutes to spare, throwing on his costume without buttoning the buttons.

Rickerd's work ethic might be traced to his time spent as a band leader in Canada. If he didn't show, the whole band wouldn't work, he said.

The husband and father of two grown children got his start playing guitar at the age of 13. Born in the Ottawa area, Rickerd said he spent most of his Canadian life in Montreal, Quebec. While a band leader there, he hired a keyboardist, Benoit Jutrus, who would go on to compose the music for some of Cirque's shows including "Mystere." Jutrus called one day, several years after leaving the band, to tell Rickerd that Cirque was doing a permanent show in Las Vegas — its first — and asked if he wanted to play. It would be a five-year gig, he said Jutras told him.

As of Saturday, "Mystere" and Rickerd remain, 21 years later, to celebrate 10,000 shows for both.

"And then lights out, we're out of there," he said, but just until he returns for the next show.

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