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.