Cirque du Soleil and the Beatles make Love in Vegas. (a review)

A note to all the Beatles fans out there: don’t buy the inevitable soundtrack to this production. At least not yet.

This isn’t a boycott borne of purist outrage or a warning of a conceptual misfire; it’s a genuine plea to a fan to experience this music WITH Cirque du Solieil’s visual accompaniment. The effect of these two elements working in concert with one another will give Beatlemaniacs young or old the opportunity to experience this forty-year-old music as if they were hearing it for the first time.

If you haven’t heard, the music from the new Cirque du Soleil production “Love” augments core Beatles songs with musical elements taken from other songs by the band. This idea should sound potentially disastrous to any true fan — the foursome got a well-deserved reputation for recording things right the first time around. Who presumes to have the gall to manipulate the Beatles’ work for any purpose? Musical Director Sir George Martin: the producer that helped the Beatles through their own musical discovery all those years ago. For an sampling of the type of product they are creating, check out the “sneak preview” on the Cirque website. This intro blends the opening guitar chord from “Hard Day’s Night” into the drum and guitar solos from Abbey Road’s “The End” which kick off “Get Back” (not shown). Given the fact that the Beatles rarely lease their music out for anyone but themselves, the fact that this project was blessed by the remaining Beatles should tip off the rabble that this is something special. Cirque du Soleil has a reputation for doing special things and the Beatles-Cirque marriage is both an inspired and natural one. If this review focuses more heavily on the Beatles than Cirque, it’s because this production is an anomaly for even Cirque’s varied history: it is truly an immersive interpretive dance inspired by — and in tribute to — the Beatles.

But this should in no way diminish that this is a Cirque show through and through. It features Cirque’s staggering imaginative artistic trademark combined with a technically remarkable set divided into four quadrants. Cirque is renowned for their spectacular visuals, but what’s interesting in this show is how compatible the visual palette is between the two institutions. The first thing one notices is how Cirque honors the very British-ness of their pedigree. Cirque also brings to life both the abstract character and literal characters that inhabit the songs. The production also interprets those eras that either shaped or were shaped by the band: the state of Britain when the boys came into the world; their Hamburg proving grounds; the Summer of Love, and the harsh social upheaval that closed out the decade as well as the band.

Though the Beatles are sometimes regarded as a more sugary pop act when compared to peers such as The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and The Who, this production reminds listeners that the Beatles could rock as hard as the rest. But instead of limiting it’s scope to a “Beatles Rock Show,” they incorporate many of the band’s sonic explorations that may surprise the casual listener the breadth of the band’s sound. The energy runs the gamut of emotion, from gentle innocence to energetic fanfare to mournful sadness to evocative sexuality to even just a hint of foreboding menace. Not too surprisingly, the music selection favors the middle and later years of the band’s career. This is not only due to the compatibility of the sophisticated production and themes from the later years as it is to the multi-track recording technology used during that period, permitting the producers to isolate individual musical elements.

But just as the Beatles catalog has a few low points, so too does the show. There is a point in which the music stops to give way to suppoed-to-be-funny segment that is essentially a single joke repeated over again with only the flimsiest of tie-back to the source material. Another patchy element are the Beatle dialoge interludes that are assembed — roughly at times — to create a dialogue that literally goes nowhere. But these criticisms are minor and are dwarfed by the overwhelming majority of the production where nearly everything is done right.

If you are a fan of the Beatles, start planning your pilgrimage now. This is a must-see production made especially for you.

Than afterwards, buy the soundtrack.
For more info…

When this hits DVD I am going to be there – will likely buy the CD too. It looks GREAT!