Falling in Love with the Cirque du Soleil Beatles LOVE Reboot

a year ago

It was 10 years ago that The Beatles LOVE show opened in a specially designed theater at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas to universal acclaim. The production features a clever reworking of the Beatles’ catalogue — in essence, the Beatles are mashed-up with themselves — accompanied by the dazzling acrobatics and costumes of the Cirque du Soleil troupe. The official 10 year anniversary show was on July 14, with former Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in attendance, and dedicated to the band’s producer, George Martin, who died this past March. “It was fantastic tonight,” McCartney said, taking the stage at the curtain call with Starr. “It gets better and better!” “The new rendition we thought was great,” added Starr. “I thought I was fabulous!” Here’s to another decade of LOVE reigning supreme.

Image: Screenshot from Promotional Video viaLOVE .

Buff and Shine

Not surprisingly, in a town where hotels are routinely demolished the moment they’re perceived to be “showing their age,” LOVE isn’t the same show it was when it first opened; it’s been given a revamp. Most dramatically, there’s simply more going on; screens are dropped in and out throughout the show, displaying a constantly changing stream of visuals (which can sometimes be distracting). The music’s been remixed, there are song changes (“Twist and Shout” had been added, “I Am the Walrus” is gone), new costumes, new choreography, and new speakers in the seats. Even the floor’s been painted — the better to display projections on. “It needed a refresh,” said Giles Martin, the show’s co-Music Director, at a press conference. “Our word was vibrancy; ‘Let’s make it more vibrant. Our artists are young and energetic. The Beatles were young and energetic. This is a time capsule for that period of time. We never wanted to make a show about the Beatles; it’s about the energy.” The reboot got the thumbs up from the cast. “Everything’s new, technologically-wise,” says dancer Gianni Powell, who spent a year dancing in the LOVE’s previous edition, and is now in the revamped show. “They’ve changed everything in the show just enough to where it’s boosted its appearance and just made it feel refreshed, feel new, and feel ready for another ten years.”

All in the Family

Giles Martin at a Q&A at the Mirage on the day of LOVE's 10th anniversary. Image: Gillian G. Gaar.

LOVE was the first Cirque show to use recorded, not live, music. When the show was being created, Neil Aspinall, then the head of the Beatles’ company Apple Corps., Ltd., insisted that the Beatles’ own music had to be used, and that meant getting help from long time Beatles producer George Martin. But as George’s hearing was failing, due to prolonged exposure to loud music over the years (kids take note!), he enlisted the help of his son, Giles, in producing the show’s music. Giles told Aspinall, “I think what we could do is we can create the Beatles playing live in the show by chopping up the multi-track tapes and creating an experience.” He was given three months (and no salary) to create a sample “experience,” and came up with a mash-up of “Within You, Without You” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.” While his father said he’d perhaps gone too far, Paul and Ringo loved it, and encouraged Giles to go even further. Thus was Giles awarded fulltime entry into BeatleLand (he’s since worked on Beatles Rock Band, the Beatles’ 1+ CD/DVD package, and solo albums by Paul McCartney and George Harrison). The soundtrack was produced by both father and son, featuring such delights as “Drive My Car”/ “What You’re Doing,” with a little bit of “The Word” dropped in, and a dark “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” that also sweeps up “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Helter Skelter” in its wake.

Image: Matt Beard

Most Thrilling Moment

There’s no shortage of highlights in the production. But the most heart-stopping has to be the beginning, where an a capella version of “Because” gives way to the final chord (played backwards) from “A Day in the Life,” that instantly recognizable opening chord of “A Hard Day’s Night” crashing in, seguing into the drum solo from “The End” and leading into the opening of “Get Back,” at which point the stage explodes into action, with colorfully attired dancers and acrobats flying in every direction, and the drop-in screens displaying the Beatles themselves playing along. “So we’re dancing with the Beatles now,” enthuses Gianni Powell. “Before the Beatles were just seen in shadow. Now, right from the first song, we’re dancing, I’m dancing, with the Beatles! Being able to dance with the Beatles is one of the coolest parts, as a dancer. It doesn’t get more surreal and amazing than that.”

Image: Matt Beard.

Target Audience

Beatles fans will likely get the most out of the show. But you needn’t be a fan of the Fab Four to enjoy it. Classic rock fans and pop culture aficionados will also get a buzz. As, of course, will anyone who can’t get enough of the Cirque’s imaginative acrobatics.

Sightlines

Image: Matt Beard.

LOVE is presented in the round, and the seats are raked well enough that every seat really is a good one. But your experience will change depending upon where you choose to sit. In the 100 level, especially the first five rows, you’ll really feel like you’re part of the action, able to see the sweat on the performers’ faces. But in the 200 section on up, you’ll be better able to appreciate the many projections on the drop-in screens.

Fun Fact

The LOVE creative team; Dominic Champagne, the show's writer and director, is second row, second from the right. Image: Gillian G. Gaar.

People formerly in the show, now work for the show. In 2006, Mukhtar appeared in the show as a multi-purpose dancer, and stayed with LOVE for eight years. Now he’s choreographed the “Lady Madonna” number. “It’s a beautiful circle,” he says. “It feels like I closed a beautiful door.” Mukhtar worked on making the “Lady Madonna” “more fun and more colorful. We wanted to make it more collaborative and interactive with the projections as well, on the floor underneath them. So I think we created something very fun with that.”

Other Tips

LOVE is LOUD! Wear earplugs. Be careful if you wear a hat; a sheet covers the audience during “Within You, Without You”/“Tomorrow Never Knows” and you risk getting it knocked off. Concession stand lines are long, so if you want time to pick up a specialty cocktail (like the “Strawberry Fields”: Ketel One Citroen vodka, Viniq strawberry liqueur, citrus sour, club soda) and get to your seat before the show kicks off (late comers have to wait for an appropriate break before they’re seated), get there early. Buy your drink in a specially designed cup you can take home, for a quick and easy souvenir. The cleverly titled merch store The Beatles Shop, right next to the theater, is mobbed with people right after the show, but never fear; most days of the week it’s open from 10 a.m. until midnight (it closes at 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the show is dark), and the crowds are lighter.

Speaking Words of Wisdom

Yoko walks the red carpet. Image: Gillian G. Gaar.

Yoko Ono, in the 10th anniversary program: “The Beatles were like acrobats of the mind, and Cirque du Soleil are acrobats of the body. So when they come together, it makes something that’s whole.” Well said.

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