Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Cirque Du Soleil Experience

As promised, I'm going to make an attempt to provide you all with a more in depth outline and review of the two Cirque du Soleil shows I saw last week.

Cirque Du Soleil - Mystere
Treasure Island
Source: cirquedusoleil.com
First off, some background for you all.  Mystere was actually the first Cirque du Soleil show developed specifically for Vegas.  The theater was designed for this show alone and it first opened in 1993.  As in all of the Cirque du Soleil shows, it is 90 minutes long (on the dot) and there are no intermissions.  This allows them to maximize the bottom line by squeezing in two shows a night, one at 7:30 and one at 9:00.

The official Mystere Web Site describes Mystere as a combination of "powerful athleticism, high-energy acrobatics and inspiring imagery". It further goes on to describe the show as an "exhilarating blend of whimsy, drama and the unimaginable brought to life on stage".  These adjectives, while on the surface appropriate, don't successfully prepare the audience for the plot, which can only be described as plain ol' o-d-d.  For instance, there is a giant baby that is portrayed by a pudgy adult male and creatures in crazy costumes that the web site lists as spermatos, lizards, double faces, las laqauis, etc.  There is a narrator to the show as well, but he successfully provides zero clues as to what is going on because he speaks in a "magical" language that no one can understand.
Giant baby; Source: reviewjournal
Lizards; Source: exploringlasvegas
Even though the characters were running about in a plot that was essentially nonsensical, it was still immensely visually pleasing.  The costumes are stunning and the dancers and acrobatics are breathtaking.  There is so much going on that it's hard to focus.  Sensory overload.  Also, I should point out that the baby is actually quite funny.  He interacts with the crowd and keeps that connection going throughout the duration of the show.  Aside from these performers, there is also a clown.  No, not a clown plastered with white make-up, a painted on smile and a detachable red nose, but rather a middle aged man that seems intentionally out of place.  This clown is first introduced to the audience before the show even begins.  He walks up and down the aisles causing trouble by throwing buckets of popcorn on people and forcing people to swap seats.  It provided an excellent way to pass the time before the show began.  During the show, the clown shows up here and there wreaking havoc on this "magical" world, always being chased off stage by the narrator.
Clown: Source: cirquedusoleil.com
The highlight and clear linchpins of the show are a few specific acts, specifically the aerial cube, aerial highbars and bungees, Chinese poles and the hand-to-hand strongman display.  One of my personal favorites was the aerial cube.  It was fairly psychedelic, as this incredibly fit/strong/ripped man is suspended above the audience doing all these maneuvers while also spinning/twisting/balancing this huge cube that is glowing neon green.  My other favorite were these two brothers performing hand-to-hand maneuvers on a rotating dome. I honestly cannot fathom how much strength and balance it takes to do these things.  They must be superhuman because I really couldn't believe my eyes. 
Aerial Cube; Source: cirquedusoleil.com
Hand-to-Hand; Source: cirquedusoleil.com
If you find yourself in Vegas and want to see a classic Cirque du Soleil show, this one is worth it.  Don't forget my earlier tip about using the discounted day-of ticket prices though!  You may not understand this mystical world but that's really fine in the end.  Just sit back and focus on how the visuals make you feel and let go of trying to make sense of anything.  Oh and be sure to watch out for flying popcorn.

Cirque du Soleil - The Beatles LOVE
This show was by far my favorite of the four we saw!!  It all goes down in a 2,013 seat theater with the stage positioned in the center.  It utilizes many walkways that connect to the center stage, so at any given point in time there will be 1-5 different performers walking/running/dancing by your section of the audience to get to center stage.  Think of the layout of the stage as sort of a giant octopus.  Each seat also has 3 speakers underneath to really immerse everyone in the music.  Regarding the music, the creators of the show have gone on record to say that it was important to not have the show be a catalog of "best-ofs".  They've been creative in using fragments of songs, some interesting and not well-known songs and providing audio of never-before-heard conversations between the four Beatles members taken in between recording takes.

Concerning the specific musical acts (26 in total), the show aims to trace the Beatles lives from childhood, to their abrupt fame (i.e. Beatlemania), to their spiritual awakening and, sadly, their breakup.  However, they take the audience on this path without actually using individual representations of the Beatles members or historical figures of the time.  Instead, the show uses fictional characters that often recur in their songs (i.e. Lady Madonna, Sgt. Pepper, Eleanor Rigby, etc.).  The core of this show is really more about their theatrical approach to bringing the music to life, which is a bit of a deviation from the traditional Cirque du Soleil that is all about breathtaking, circus-like acrobatics.  There are some lovers of the traditional Cirque that do not and will not like this production for this very reason.  Clearly, I disagree because I found the way in which they brought the music to life just so incredibly enjoyable while also increasing my satisfaction by including some circus-like acts in the mix.  For instance, they had some exciting tricks with in-line skaters that were bounding up and down these half-pipe structures, as well as trampolinists, rope climbers and bungee jumpers/dancers.  The non-aerial dance was great too.  As an avid So You Think You Can Dance viewer, I spotted ballet, contemporary, breaking and even some stomping/rhythym dance.

What I cannot stress enough is the feeling you get in the audience right when the show starts.  It begins with "Because", which is kind of a slow song.  You can start to make out some rope climbers in the dim lighting but there is generally not a ton of movement yet.  Then, all of a sudden it stops and goes into the much-faster paced "Get Back".  Great tune. As soon as this song starts, it's like a visual explosion....lights ablaze, sheer curtains drawn back, music blaring and it seems like the whole production cast is out on stage.  I think it's fair to say that our jaws were on the ground at this point.
Because; Source: Cirque du Soleil The Beatles LOVE (C) 2008
The show then  goes to "Glass Onion", "Eleanor Rigby" and "The Walrus", which I believe were representations of the devastation of World War II in the UK.  It then moves into Beatlemania and the songs "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "Drive My Car" which of course incorporate tons of ladies and the coveted VW Beetle.  Groovy Baby, Yeah! The next song "Something" felt sort of like an aerial balet and was undoubtedly one of my favorites.  It was simple and beautiful with only 5 cast members.  It has a male dancer center stage that is trying desperately to catch and hold on to one of 4 female dancers that are harnessed on bungees and are gliding in the most elegant yet strong fashion all around him.  It was a perfect representation of the lyrics (i.e. "something in the way she moves", "don't want to leave her now").
Walrus; Source: jetsettersmagazine
"Help" was next in line and this was the song where the in-line skaters came out with some pretty ridiculous tricks.  Then the show turned to songs such as "Blackbird", "Strawberry Fields" and "Sgt. Pepper".  This was by far the most psychedelic portion of the show (i.e. the "spiritual awakening" of the band) which was really really fun.  One of my other favorites was next, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", where they filled the sky with tons of twinkling stars and brought the song to life with two performers.  First up was a fireman, Lucy's love, who brought out a large ladder that moved very gracefully on the back of two large wheels.  He moved the ladder about slowly at first and then all of sudden, and in-line with the chorus intro, Lucy came bursting out of the sky on a bungee, contorting her body in the most unreal ways.  From the picture below, you can see that she does in fact land on the ladder at various points in the song (always returning to the air for the chorus).
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds: Source: jetsettersmagazine
The next two songs, "Within You, Without You" and "Tomorrow Never Knows", were pretty wild.  Most of the audience is covered in a giant sheet that is suspended from center stage.  It is colorfully lit from above and is waved in a billowy fashion and it creates SUCH a crazy/trippy experience.  The sheet disappears into center stage effortlessly, as if you were watching water going down a drain.  Up next was Octupus' Garden, which was a visually impeccable aquatic scene.
Octopus' Garden; Source: emol
"Lady Madonna" and "Here Comes the Sun" were next.  Here Comes the Sun was so beautifully done with four rope climbers that it left you entranced.  This song has a special place in my memory as one of my best friends, Erin, celebrated the end of her wedding ceremony with this song.
Here Comes the Sun; Source: emol
"Revolution" depicting the hippies vs. the establishment era in the UK was up next.  It had a full sized British phone booth displayed in center stage.  The performers bounded on top of the booth and on nets surrounding the booth from many trampolines embedded in the floor.  This number was really fantastic.

The show started to wind down with a few more songs and then there was a pretty powerful number, "A Day in the Life", that showed a beautiful woman in a long red dress ultimately get hit by a car and die.  This was a little confusing for me real-time not knowing all of the Beatles history, so I looked it up as I was writing this review and I believe the significance is that this woman represented Julia (John's Lennon's mother).  Her death had a devastating effect on John and was a large contributor to the breakup of the band.
A Day in the Life; Source: jetsettersmagazine
"Hey Jude" started next, a perfect segue from "A Day in the Life" with its lyrics "take a sad song and make it better".  Rose petals fell from the sky and suspended dancers made beautiful pictures with vivid red umbrellas.
Hey Jude: Source: emol
The finale is "All You Need Is Love".  Perfection.  It is a joyous celebration of dance with the whole cast, streamers falling down on all of us.  I was so emotional!  Jaw on floor, goosebumps, you name it.  One thing is clear to me - you really don't need to be a big Beatles fan in order to find this show incredibly enjoyable.  I was familiar with their songs and definitely had gotten my hands on some tunes from Beatles Rock Band in the past, but that was about it.  Yet, I left just absolutely blown away.  I simply did not want to leave. Typing this much about the show in review makes me want to legitimately jump on a plane and go see it again.  Any takers? ;)

1 comment:

  1. I'm in! Though you already made me feel like I was there with you. I love the reference to Erin's wedding!