Last weekend I watched a 90-minute special on one of the cable channels. It was called All Together Now, and it was the story behind the creation of Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show called “Love.” If you don’t already know, “Love” is based on the music of the Beatles.
I have seen two Cirque du Soleil shows, one in Vegas and one here at home. Both were great, so count me in as a fan. I’ve also been a Beatles fan for 45 years, so the combination of Cirque du Soleil and the Beatles got me psyched when ”Love” was announced a few years ago.” Watching the documentary just reminded me how badly I wanted to see it. Unfortunately, the chances of me seeing it any time soon are nil.
Now, there’s another Cirque show coming to Las Vegas that I’m going to miss out on. It is their newest creation, based on Elvis’ life and music, and tentatively set to open on January 8, 2010, after several weeks of private showings. It doesn’t have a name yet, but it does have a website, http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/elvis/show.aspx.
The show will take place in a brand new hotel, Aria, a key component of the fabulous multistructure CityCenter. It is on the site formerly occupied by the budget Boardwalk Hotel and other structures.
If you look at the map below, there is an open lot on the North side of the strip. That’s where Aria is. To the left is Monte Carlo, followed by New York, New York, Excalibur and Luxor. To the right are Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace and Mirage. Right across the street are Aladdin and Paris, and the green X marks the MGM Grand. So, the Elvis show will be right in the middle of the best part of the strip.
I think it must be a far greater challenge for Cirque du Soleil to build a show around Elvis music than it was with Beatles music. So many of the Beatles songs are made-to-order for Cirque interpretation. How about just the title of “An Octopus’s Garden?” I’ll bet those Cirque producers didn’t hesitate for a minute to put that one on the list of 26 songs in the show. How about “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” with lyrics like “tangerine trees and marmalade skies” or “cellophane flowers of yellow and green.” If you were a creative person at Cirque, wouldn’t you love to create a production around that, or “Strawberry Fields Forever,” or “Sgt. Pepper?”
And it’s not just the titles or lyrics of Beatles songs that lend themselves to a Cirque production. There is also the music, the instrumentation. During the late 60s, the Beatles explored new sonic territory and produced trippy kaleidoscopes of sound. In albums like Revolver, The White Album, Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles were at the forefront of the new music for the psychedelic era. They pushed the envelope with unheard of levels of fearless experimentation. And the results were superb.
So far, the song list for the Cirque du Soleil Elvis show has not been announced. Unlike the Beatles, the Elvis library of songs doesn’t supply many that are tailor-made for Cirque interpretation. I love Elvis music as much as anybody, but you have to admit that his song topics and lyrics are not enough to build this kind of show around. Elvis’ instrumentation is solid but not whimsical, and Cirque de Soleil is all about whimsy.
So, it is no surprise that the advance press releases point out that the Cirque Elvis show will celebrate his life and his music. Elvis’ life was such a long and varied journey. You can easily think of the parts of the Elvis timeline that Cirque will feature: Sun records, early touring around the South, Milton Berle and Ed Sullivan TV shows, Army service, movies, ’68 Comeback Special, Aloha from Hawaii, the jumpsuit years. Vincent Patterson, the director of the Elvis production, said that first he decided on the sections of Elvis’ life to cover, and then he found the songs that were appropriate for each section.
I suspect that one way he will tell his Elvis story is by using a feature I noticed at both Cirque shows I watched. Images are shown on a gauzy fabric screen stretched across the stage, while live performers do their thing behind it or in front of it, or both. Here is a look at how it is done in the Beatles’ “Love.”
Cirque du Soleil says it will present an abstract biography with little sparks of who Elvis was. This includes showing the relationship between Elvis and his mother and between him and Col. Parker. I can’t imagine what song they will pick for the Parker segment.
Director Patterson also says their Elvis show will be bold, sexy, energetic, funny and fantastic. I’m sure it will. I just hope I don’t have to wait five years to see it.
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