RUN by Cirque du Soleil
At a Glance
What is it?
A live action adventure stunt show from Cirque du Soleil.
Where is it?
At Luxor on the South Strip.
Is it worth the cost?
It’s a judgment call right now. If they work out some of the kinks, I think it will be worth it.
Why should I see this show?
Because you are okay with Cirque doing something other than dreamy surrealism.
What else do I need to know?
The show is loud and violent – be prepared.
What’s the bottom line?
Kudos for trying something new, even if it doesn’t quite stick the landing.
The initial audience reviews for the new Cirque du Soleil production at Luxor have been pretty negative. Most of the bad ones – and admittedly, there are a lot of them – say some variation of “I’ve seen every Cirque show in Vegas” and then go on to bash this one for not being like them. But here’s the thing: they never said this was going to be like the other shows. In fact, they have gone out of their way to warn people that this is something completely new for the company, for Vegas, and perhaps for a stage anywhere. That some audiences didn’t get that memo really isn’t Cirque’s fault.
RUN is being billed as a live action adventure movie, of sorts, and unlike most Cirque productions it has a story line with a script written by Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Machete, Grind House). It’s about the head of a gang who steals a heart-shaped necklace from his former girlfriend on her wedding day to the leader of a rival gang in Las Vegas. What amounts to an extended chase scene follows with choreographed fighting, stunts including zip lining above audience and an “underwater” ballet, a car chase, a battle of motorcycles, and more as the two gangs go back and forth trying to claim ownership of the necklace. It’s sort of like those stunt shows you might see at a theme park, only with a much higher budget.
The story is not hard to follow, even when it gets slightly more twisty toward the end (who’s side is the former girlfriend on?) but it’s also not terribly compelling. I mean, it’s not Liam Neeson trying to get his daughter back. You sort of have to buy into the stakes and accept that one gang is better than the other gang so you have someone to root for. It’s okay, the bad guys mostly wear black, while the good guys are allowed more vivid colors so even the who is who question isn’t difficult.
As far as the meat of the production – the stunts – it’s kind of a mixed bag with some segments more successful than others, not unlike many other Cirque shows I could name (I’m looking at you Love). The extended opening number that involves a foot chase and fight through a fireworks factory is good eye-candy – People are getting kicked and punched! Things are blowing up! – but it goes on for too long and has too many things happening at once. Ditto the dreamy aerial pas de deux between the two leads, that is designed to look like it is happening underwater but mostly just looks like it’s behind a gauzy curtain with stuff being projected on it.
Then there’s the torture sequence, in which a psychotic doctor attempts to get answers from our hero by doing some pretty gruesome things to anyone he can get his hands on – then has gruesome things done to him when the tables are turned. It’s all done with contortionists and other body modification experts (a hook goes through the nose and comes out the mouth), but it looks shockingly real and isn’t for the faint of heart.
The car chase sequence is more entertaining, even if it is a little silly with people chasing, and fighting on top of, a speeding Chevy Camaro. Using a constantly moving background, a really big treadmill, and actual car, they do a pretty good job of simulating motion, although there are a few times where the car appears to be turning but the “road” it’s on is straight. Still, it’s a cool visual.
And the motorcycle battle that ends the show is downright jaw-dropping. Everything you love about Cirque performers flying through the air with the greatest of ease is in this number, only they are attached to two-wheeled machines while they are doing it.
The biggest issue with the show are the film interstitials, which actually take up probably 30-40% of the run time. While they are trying to keep the story going, many of them are way too long and others are simply unnecessary. And let’s just say that the script, while effective at setting a mood, is probably not going to win any Oscars anytime soon.
I also have quibbles with the fight sequences, which are a mixed bag depending on the strength of the performer. Some look fantastic, with the hits looking real enough to elicit a flinch while others just look like two people faking punches.
I have to commend Cirque for trying something different. I, for one, couldn’t have taken another production with acrobats doing stuff in dreamlike sequences. And RUN certainly is ambitious, so kudos for that. The fact that they haven’t quite hit their target doesn’t take away from any of the above and, knowing Cirque, they will be making changes until they feel like they’ve gotten it right. It wouldn’t be hard. Trim the filmed parts and some of the fight sequences, tighten up the choreography, and add another showstopper of a number (or two) like the motorcycles and this could be a fantastic production.
If you can’t handle your Cirque shows being anything other than traditional Cirque shows, do not go to this one. If you do, at least now you can’t say you haven’t been warned.