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Good Day Sunshine?

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I have very mixed feelings about a forthcoming “live theater production” at the Mirage in Las Vegas by Cirque du Soleil featuring Beatles music. I mean building a Vegas show around Celine Dion is one thing, or musicals around Billy Joel or ABBA songs, but can a bunch of painted, French-Canadian circus freaks do the Beatles’ legacy justice? I fear a trivialization of the most important body of popular music of the 20th century, or at least the second half of the 20th century.

Can you turn an era’s most profoundly touching music into spectacle without crushing it? I have haunting visions of a nightmare film called Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which almost killed several careers and is a blight upon the culture.

With deep concerns firmly in place, here is what the principals have to say for themselves:

    Cirque du Soleil, Apple Corps Ltd. and The Mirage announce a partnership in which they will celebrate the musical legacy and extraordinary experience of The Beatles in an unprecedented live theatre production opening in 2006. This joint artistic venture marks the first time that The Beatles’ company, Apple Corps, has agreed to a major theatrical partnership.

    The production will be Cirque du Soleil’s fifth resident show in Las Vegas and will be presented at The Mirage, the resort that changed the face of Las Vegas when it opened in 1989.

    The project was born out of a personal friendship and professional admiration between the late George Harrison and Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté. “This show is about living The Beatles experience,” said Guy Laliberté. “We want to bring the magic of Cirque du Soleil together with the spirit and passion behind the most beloved rock band of all time to create a single, simple statement of delight.”

    Neil Aspinall, Managing Director of Apple Corps, said, “In the past The Beatles have been approached with theatrical proposals which never promised much beyond a traditional presentation. However, in Cirque du Soleil, Apple is fortunate to have found a creative partner with the same passion for innovation and excellence.”

    ….Gilles Ste-Croix, Vice President of Creation and New Project Development at Cirque du Soleil, revealed key members of the artistic team will include Cirque du Soleil writer-director Dominic Champagne and The Beatles producer Sir George Martin.

    Sir George, who will oversee the music element of the show, said today, “After spending more than 40 years of my life working with The Beatles and their wonderful music, I am thrilled to be working with them once again, on this exciting project with Cirque du Soleil. The show will be a unique and magical experience.”

    While the project has the approval of Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, Paul and Ringo will not appear in the production. “It is a fantastic project for us and I personally am excited to collaborate with such a great creative team,” Paul McCartney said.

    “How excited can I get — The Beatles, Cirque du Soleil, an incredible venue in Las Vegas – what could be better,” said Ringo. “I’m looking forward to the first show cause I’m going to be there and I hope you are too.”

    “The Beatles and Cirque. I think it’s a great combination: The Beatles’ agile mind and Cirque’s agile body,” said Yoko Ono.

    ….”The music was the obvious starting point so we approached it with great respect,” said Gilles Ste-Croix, “We consider the music of The Beatles to be as significant and influential as any of the great works of art in history. We intend to not only explore their artistic contribution but to tap into their exuberance and irreverence by harnessing, to the heart of this production, the astonishing energy that they generated.”

See the announcement video with George Martin here.

And here is an artist’s rendering from the Cirque site:

Everyone is saying the right things, but we will see what we will see in 2006.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://paskudnyak.blogspot.com The Proprietor

    While this might be something that might interest the general public, any serious Beatles fan has to have serious trepidations about this, approval and endorsements aside. The average person has a simple thought process when it comes to the Beatles, “Hey Jude”, “Yesterday” and maybe some imagery from the Ed Sullivan show (mostly thanks to that ghastly institution known as oldies radio). This won’t be a production for the person who loves “Revolver”, it’s one for the profanum vulgus and will probably have the overall creative impact of Laserium. It’ll basically be the red and blue albums backing the somewhat creepy Cirque stagings and skits. I’d seriously doubt you’ll hear “Dear Prudence” or “And Your Bird Can Sing” during this production.

    Sad to see that Paul, Ringo and the womenfolk are putting their weight behind this instead of getting their legacy out there (“Let It Be”, “Help” and the Shea Stadium concert on DVD might be a good start). For some reason I don’t think Brian would’ve approved of this. He was very conscious of overexposure, and an ongoing show in Las Vegas can only generate that.

  • Eric Olsen

    TP, excellent points and I share your concerns – context is everything and this will take the music out of context. I am trying to keep an open mind in the meantime.

  • Mike Anderson

    TP.

    The Beatles are more protective of thier creative content than probably any recording artist in history. Cirque is the most protecitve of thier creative content than any other “theatrical” organization. Don’t you think that they both would perhaps understand the concerns to insure that the creative heritage of both companies were taken seriously? Perhaps when done correctlty it will offer the true beatles fan yet one other look into the music and genius of the band, and for those profanum vulgus, as you call them, they will be thrilled as well. Why don’t we wait until we have something to judge before trashing it. A true Beatles fan would appreciate the risk at creativeness, something that the Beatles did more than once in thier history. 4 Track recording, playing songs backwards, Shea Stadium, Music Videos for press, and on and on. They were open minded and out of the box in many ways, why would a Cirque collaboration be so different, and why can’t people like you appreciate that even 40 years later, they are still being out of the box. Perhaps this out of the box way of thinking is why you first became interested in them, you should allow yourself to go back to that place and trust those that probably care more about thier own creative heritage than any fan every could.