Love by Cirque du Soleil
At a Glance
What is it?
A Cirque du Soleil production featuring the music of The Beatles set to evocative production numbers with dance and some of their trademark circus-style acts.
Where is it?
In a custom-built theater at The Mirage on the Center Strip.
Is it worth the cost?
If you’re a fan of The Beatles, then absolutely. If not… well…
Why should I see this show?
Because you own every single Beatles album ever made and quite a few bootlegs on top of that.
What else do I need to know?
There is not as much of their trademark acrobatics as in other Cirque shows in Vegas.
What’s the bottom line?
A must for Beatles fans, a bit of a disappointment for Cirque fans, and an entertaining diversion for people in between.
Let’s get a couple of things out of the way right up front. First, I’m not a Beatles fan. I’m a child of the 70s and 80s and so I missed that particular train the first time around and by the time it looped back I was too immersed in disco, pop, R&B, and funk to notice. It’s not that I actively dislike music from the Fab Four – I don’t dive toward the radio to turn if off if one of their songs come on and I find some of their music catchy, I guess, but unless Ferris is twisting and shouting in the streets of Chicago to one of their tunes I just never paid that much attention.
Second, I’m a big fan of Cirque du Soleil, especially their dramatic aerial and acrobatic work that often leaves me gasping and awe-struck.
Their production at The Mirage entitled “Love,” featuring music by The Beatles, doesn’t have a lot of that circus style dramatics, focusing more on dance and theatrical visuals. So, Beatles music and not the Cirque I’m used to. I think you can see where this is going.
The theater is disconcerting when you first enter. Replacing the more traditional Siegfried and Roy theater with this in-the-round one was probably a good idea since it gives the performance more immediacy and provides the effect, at times, as if you are in the heart of the action. But the lack of a formal stage, the giant LED screens lining the walls, and the strange seating configuration (hard to explain, but trust me) means that at one point or another there will be something happening somewhere that you won’t be able to see clearly. Granted it will probably be a minor bit of background color but still.
The soundtrack to the show is re-mastered and remixed versions of classics from John, Paul, George, and Ringo with quite a bit of in-studio conversation thrown in for good measure. Sonically it’s a delight with crystal clear vocals and digital enhancements that far exceed any original recording. If you are a fan of the music, you’ll never hear it anywhere like this.
On the play list: “Get Back,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Drive My Car,” “Something,” “Help,” “Yesterday,” “Strawberry Fields,” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” “Octopus’s Garden,” “Lady Madonna,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “Come Together,” “Revolution,” “Back in the USSR,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Hey Jude,” and “Sergeant Pepper” among others. Classic stuff to be sure.
But it’s what Cirque does with the music that is what’s important here, challenging and, in fits and spurts, rewarding but never cohesive or as awe-inspiring as some of their other shows.
The opening to “Get Back” is a pastiche of Cirque cliché’s with the oddly costumed performers dancing, walking slowly, and climbing or bouncing around on bungee style ropes. “Help” is done with inline skaters zooming around on a couple of half-pipes. “Strawberry Fields” features a piano center stage filled with soapy fluid that performers use hoops and the like to make giant bubbles with. Four aerialists do slow-motion rope work (twirling, falling, climbing, etc.) surrounding a big blazing orb during “Here Comes the Sun.” Most of the rest of the pieces are accompanied by dance of various types and styles, although mostly in the modern/lyrical category.
I’m not sure what any of that has to do with the songs but that’s not exactly the point, obviously. If you want literal interpretation go watch Vevo. But that’s part of the problem with the show, in my humble and decidedly MTV generation opinion. The most successful numbers were the ones where they went with a more obvious connection to the music, such as the “Something” number, where four women on bungee-style cords move toward and away from a male dancer (“something in the way she moves…”) and the “Revolution” and “Back in the USSR” section where acrobats dressed as counter-culture hippies battled London police in a dramatic airborne battle via trampolines and nets.
The dance numbers, which make up about 75% of the show by my estimation, are also hit and miss depending on the visual interpretation. “Lady Madonna,” with a pregnant woman and the presumed father of the child doing a “Stomp” style routine in yellow rain boots is pretty cool but “Come Together,” done as a simple pas de deux between several couples seemed like a missed opportunity. That song is one of the few Beatles tunes that I find aurally challenging – dark and moody with a great bass line – and all I could think of when I was watching the dance piece unfolding was what they could have done with the song (I’m thinking soaring aerialists circling and eventually coming together in an airborne ballet but that’s just me).
That latter line of thinking also exposes another challenge with this show. Love them, hate them, or fall somewhere in between on the subject, songs by The Beatles are revered as holy. Coming from the pre-music video age means that, for the most part, the pictures painted by these songs were up to the interpretation of the listener. Now by putting visual pictures with the songs, the creators run the risk of crossing a line or playing it too safe. I think they did the latter.
I’m reminded of a cartoon strip called “Bloom County.” Binkley is remarking to his friend Milo about a new video he saw for John Lennon’s “Imagine.” It was filled with half-naked women, explosions, and porpoises frolicking in the ocean. Now, he says, “Every time I hear the song I picture half-naked exploding porpoises.”
There are no half-naked exploding porpoises in “Love” but what there is leaves me just as cold. In most of the other Cirque du Soleil productions there are moments of “WOW” – visuals that stuck with me long after I left the theater. I didn’t get a “WOW” moment in “Love” and I don’t think it has anything to do with not being a fan of The Beatles. It has to do with being a disappointed fan of Cirque du Soleil.