I’m not much of a Cirque du Soleil fan, though somehow over the years I’ve seen at least a half dozen of their productions. Most were in tents on tour in New York or San Francisco, though also a couple in Vegas at their purpose-built theaters. Only “Zumanity” was a total dud – I left at intermission – but I have a hard time remembering anything that really distinguished the others from each other.
Those by-now over-familiar Cirque du Soleil traits permeate “LOVE”: exquisite retro-French costuming, little vehicles that seem to drive themselves, Peter Pan-like trapezery (I just made that word up), and a maelstrom of apparent gymnastic chaos on the ground. “LOVE” is an ideal introduction to the (initially breathtaking) tricks of Cirque du Soleil’s trade, though the only gimmick likely to surprise frequent Cirque attendees is a bit in which the ushers pull a billowing sheet just over the heads of the entire crowd. (My colleague Mark made the apt observation that “LOVE” is heavier on the dancing and lighter on the acrobatics than usual for Cirque du Soleil, but there’s still plenty of the latter to keep you entertained.)
My favorite segment was “Help”, during which four roller skaters perform daringly choreographed acrobatics on two half pipes. I also enjoyed “Revolution/Back in the U.S.S.R.”, which included some fantastic antics on four trampolines. But if they had trampolines, why didn’t they use them in “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite”?
Cirque du Soleil shows are not known for their narrative cohesion, and “LOVE” is no exception. “LOVE” does feature several recurring characters, though their individual segments are rarely compelling or memorable enough for the audience to establish any feeling for them. There seems to be a thematic undercurrent of “a chronology of The Beatles”, occasionally made explicit by some superbly realized projections, but those segments are so infrequent that they add more color to the performance than actual structure.
That gets us to the main draw of “The Beatles LOVE”, the music. I love the soundtrack to this show, remixed and reimagined primarily by Giles Martin, son of producer and “fifth Beatle” George Martin. Working from the original master tapes, Giles creates a beautiful tapestry (dare I say “mashup”?) of Beatles music that flows beautifully, evoking a huge variety of memories and emotions. Purists need not apply – they’ll hear “Hey Bulldog” merged into “Lady Madonna”, or the bass line from “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” underneath “Here Comes the Sun”. But I love grasping for familiar snippets of Beatles tunes as they float in and out of other songs.
So should you shell out $125 to see this show in Vegas? If you’re a Cirque du Soleil veteran looking for innovations on a now well-worn formula, then “LOVE” is not the show for you. But if you would like an introduction to the acrobatics and visual splendor of Cirque du Soleil, then “LOVE” will do as well as any. And if you love The Beatles and are okay hearing the music teased apart and reassembled, then you absolutely should add “The Beatles LOVE” to your itinerary.
(By the way, NPR did a great interview with Giles Martin about the creation of the soundtrack – you can find it here.)
(And on the same trip I visited a few worthy off-Strip attractions, including the Liberace Museum and Hoover Dam. Photo albums of each are linked here.)