Cirque du Soleil’s Bea­t­les show gets a re­vamp

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - This Weekend’s Events - BY RANDY LEWIS LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES

LAS VE­GAS — The per­for­mance of Cirque du Soleil’s “The Bea­t­les Love” show ended as most of the 4,500 per­for­mances over the last decade have: A packed house of 2,000 gave a stand­ing ova­tion for the dozens of cast mem­bers, who took bows while travers­ing the cir­cu­lar stage at the Mi­rage Ho­tel and Casino in Las Ve­gas.

Sud­denly, how­ever, the cheer­ing grew even louder as ticket hold­ers re­sponded to an ex­cep­tion­ally rare coda to the show. Paul McCart­ney and Ringo Starr stepped on­stage at the conclusion of the of­fi­cial 10th-an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion of the hit col­lab­o­ra­tion on July 14 be­tween the French Cana­dian cir­cus troupe and the band that fa­mously “changed the face of pop mu­sic as we know it.”

“Thank you all for be­ing here,” McCart­ney, 74, said after a spot­light il­lu­mi­nated him and his for­mer band­mate, the sur­viv­ing mem­bers of the Fab Four, ac­com­pa­nied for the event by John Len­non’s widow, Yoko Ono, and Ge­orge Har­ri­son’s widow, Olivia Har­ri­son, as well as sev­eral other fam­ily mem­bers and friends who took in the per­for­mance. “This new ver­sion of ‘Love’ is beau­ti­ful.”

He was re­fer­ring to a re­cently re­vamped ren­di­tion of “Love” that now boasts tech­ni­cal and other en­hance­ments that weren’t pos­si­ble 10 years ago.

Not to dis­ap­point the nu­mer­ous Bea­t­les fans young and old in the house, McCart­ney and Starr ban­tered play­fully with each other and with the fans.

“I loved watch­ing,” Starr, 76, said with an easy laugh, and both ex­pressed their pride and grat­i­tude to the per­form­ers who bring the show to life each night.

“Love” spawned con­sis­tently lauda­tory crit­i­cal re­views at its open­ing in 2006 and over the past decade has been a com­mer- cial pow­er­house as well: Nearly 8 mil­lion peo­ple have seen “Love,” ac­cord­ing to Cirque of­fi­cials, es­tab­lish­ing an av­er­age at­ten­dance of about 88 per­cent ca­pac­ity.

The one big dif­fer­ence be­tween “Love” and the rest of what the Bea­t­les gave the world dur­ing their con­tin­u­ally evolv­ing eight-year record­ing ca­reer is that the Cirque show re­mained rel­a­tively sta­ble dur­ing its first decade.

That has changed with the new it­er­a­tion of “Love,” the fo­cal point of last week’s starstud­ded event that also drew Len­non’s son Sean Ono Len­non; Har­ri­son’s son, Dhani Har­ri­son; “Love” mu­si­cal pro­ducer Giles Martin, the son of the Bea­t­les’ long­time pro­ducer Ge­orge Martin, who died in March; writer-di­rec­tor Do­minic Cham­pagne; ac­tor-di­rec­tor Ron Howard, who is work­ing on the forth­com­ing Bea­t­les doc­u­men­tary “Eight Days a Week”; and var­i­ous other celebs.

“Love” has “evolved,” a word many of the show’s creators like to use, and to­day fea­tures more of the Bea­t­les’ per­son­al­i­ties them­selves. The al­ter­ations to the show are mu­si­cal, struc­tural and tech­no­log­i­cal and con­sti­tute a gam­ble for a pro­duc­tion that “was not a bro­ken show in any way,” as Martin put it in an in­ter­view with The Times.

Chief among the changes: Au­di­ences now see images of the Bea­t­les in­cor­po­rated into many num­bers. There’s footage of McCart­ney singing “Yes­ter­day,” Starr’s face floats in an air bub­ble dur­ing the ren­di­tion of “Oc­to­pus’s Gar­den,” Len­non’s face ap­pears dur­ing “All You Need Is Love” and Har­ri­son is re­united with his band­mates in dif­fer­ent num­bers.

The col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Bea­t­les and Cirque du Soleil that pro­duced the “Love” show in Las Ve­gas was ini­tially pegged for a 10-year run. But the pro­duc­tion, much like the Fab Four them­selves, has proved to be an en­dur­ing force.

It was clear from the out­set that “Love” wasn’t your gar­den-va­ri­ety Las Ve­gas en­ter­tain­ment diver­sion fo­cus­ing on glitz and spec­ta­cle. It pre­miered June 30, 2006, with many of the Fab Four’s most beloved songs of­ten rad­i­cally reimag­ined in mash-ups cre­ated by the fa­ther-son Martin team.

Be­cause the project orig­i­nally was con­ceived in the late 1990s by Ge­orge Har­ri­son and Cirque co-founder Guy LaLib­erte as a way for the sur­viv­ing mem­bers to col­lab­o­rate one more time,

the mis­sion to see it to fruition took on ex­tra emo­tional heft after Har­ri­son’s death from can­cer in 2001.

“The refresh came from Do­minic (Cham­pagne, the writer-di­rec­tor of ‘Love’) and I say­ing we could make the show bet­ter,” Giles Martin said. “We don’t want to rest on our lau­rels. There were a cou­ple of things in the pac­ing of the show we weren’t happy with, so we went back and looked at it very crit­i­cally and came up with a list of things of changes we wanted to make.”

The cre­ative team felt that “this show needed to be re­vamped,” Olivia Har­ri­son said in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view, re­lax­ing in a room back­stage a few hours be­fore the per­for­mance. “Ten years is a long time, es­pe­cially to­day, when ev­ery­thing moves so fast.”

She and Ono took on much of the heavy lift­ing of over­see­ing the cre­ation and ex­e­cu­tion of “Love” and have closely mon­i­tored the show over the years.

For Ono, the new ver­sion brings im­me­di­acy to the cen­tral mes­sage em­bod­ied in the Bea­t­les song that still closes the pro­duc­tion, “All You Need Is Love.” That mes­sage sounded that much louder to all con­cerned on the day of an­other deadly ter­ror­ist at­tack, this one in Nice, France.

“This is a new step for­ward for the Bea­t­les, not a re­peat at all,” Ono, 83, said in an­other back­stage in­ter­view. “It’s re­ally show­ing how in­tel­li­gent they are to bring love in this big, big way, be­cause right now the whole world is suf­fer­ing be­cause of a lack of love. They have pointed out that the word ‘love,’ just like the word ‘imag­ine,’ is go­ing to keep us go­ing for­ward. I think it’s a beau­ti­ful turn.”

“One thing we real­ized de­spite our crit­i­cisms,” Martin added, “is that we didn’t want to break the heart of the show. It still gets stand­ing ova­tions most nights, so we don’t have a bro­ken show in any way.”

Keep­ers of the Bea­t­les le­gacy said they have re­laxed over the years from their ini­tial re­luc­tance to in­ject too much of the Fab Four’s per­son­al­i­ties di­rectly into the pro­duc­tion.

In the orig­i­nal ver­sion, that re­sulted in a more im­pres­sion­is­tic cre­ation. It still evokes the de­struc­tion the four lads ex­pe­ri­enced in their na­tive Liver­pool dur­ing World War II from bomb­ing by the Ger­mans, the harsh liv­ing con­di­tions after the war into which they soon in­tro­duced their mu­sic after the serendip­i­tous meet­ing of young rock ’n’ roll-lov­ing mu­si­cians Len­non and McCart­ney at a church pic­nic in 1957.

Rather than di­rectly ref­er­enc­ing the mem­bers of the band, the show has turned the spot­light on a mul­ti­plic­ity of char­ac­ters from their songs: lonely Eleanor Rigby and Sgt. Pep­per as well as crea­tures that might in­habit fan­ci­ful lo­ca­tions such as Penny Lane, Straw­berry Fields and the Oc­to­pus’s Gar­den.

TRI­BUNE NEWS SER­VICE

Cirque du Soleil’s “The Bea­t­les Love” has been re­vamped with tech­ni­cal and other en­hance­ments that weren’t pos­si­ble 10 years ago.

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