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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2008/02/24
by Mike Gruenberg

Cirque du Soleil: The Beatles LOVE

In My Life
I went to Las Vegas last month to attend a week long company meeting. I sat in rooms each day, listened to speaker after speaker, ate all my meals with 250 business colleagues and attended more seminars than I could count. The one solace was knowing that sometime during that week I would find the time to see the Beatles LOVE program performed by Cirque du Soleil at the Mirage Hotel.
As my week began with the plane touching down, the lights from the strip were clearly visible beckoning all unsuspecting travelers to try their luck at the gambling tables, slot machines and wheels of the unfortunate. Looking at this manmade marvel of a town, I couldnt help but think of the opening scene of the TV hit series, CSI that I watch each week. As the camera pans across the Las Vegas night, exposing the endless array of lights and amusements causing a surrealistic and mostly unrealistic expectations that big dollar winnings are merely a dice throw away.
Las Vegas was originally the brainchild of gamblers and mobsters, who built the city on the sands of Nevada as their haven to lure fun seeking gamblers, extract huge sometimes unreported profits, watch great entertainment and mingle with many elite Hollywood movie stars. As profits grew, the mobsters gave way to corporate interests who now run Vegas casinos and hotels much the same as any Fortune 500 business. Entertainment by top name celebrities fills the concert halls and lounges with people who are expected to visit the casinos on their way to and from their chosen entertainment. In the old days in Vegas, you could get a great meal at a low price because all the profit was taken at the gaming tables. Now, as is the case in any business, every aspect of the hotel is expected to turn a profit. The restaurants, gift shops, concert halls and of course, the ever present slot machines and blackjack tables are all expected to contribute individually and collectively to the bottom line.
I was therefore not surprised when I was informed of the cost of the ticket to see the Beatles LOVE performed at Cirque du Soleil. In spite of the price, I bought it just the same. The idea of marrying Beatles music to the acrobatic artistry of Cirque was actually conceived many years ago when George Harrison met Guy Lailberte, the founder of Cirque. Both men shared an avid interest in motor racing and when they met, they became instant friends. As is so often the case when two creative minded people meet, the concept of combining Beatles music with Cirque was born. It would be easy to say that this friendship instantly made the partnership of talents work. One may be tempted to also to say that in June of 2006, LOVE opened at the Mirage Hotel. mysteriously and magically. Not so fast, my Liverpool lads devotees.

There were permissions needed from Paul and Ringo along with Yoko and Olivia. This was not an overnight agreement since the four parties have rarely agreed on any one topic. The music had to be remixed under the guidance of long-time Beatles music producer George Martin, now assisted by his son, Giles. A theater had to be created to take full advantage of the remixed sound and give every audience member a full visual view of the performers. And finally, the songs chosen had to be creatively matched to the acrobatic and artistic styling of the Cirque troupe.
So as I sat in my seat awaiting the show, I could not help but notice the ropes and ladders that would be used by the performers. I also noticed that my seat was equipped with speakers that would compliment the overall sound system of the theater. When the lights dimmed and the voices of John, Paul, George and Ringo gave way to the first opening chords of the first Beatles tune amidst confetti falling on the crowd from the ceiling, I knew I was in for an evening of amazing entertainment.
The album from the show contains 26 tracks beginning with an accappella version of Because. One of the incredibly creative aspects of the music presented is that although weve heard the tunes before, we really havent heard them the way George and Giles have modernized them. The Martins have seamlessly combined a number of the songs making them truly unique once again. It is extraordinary to have accomplished this feat when you consider that the original recordings used are over 40 years old and were recorded on equipment that would be considered primitive in relation to todays recording standards.
The unmistakable opening chord to Hard Days Night transitions to a Ringo drum solo which transitions into Get Back and the show is on! For me, I was blown away by the updated orchestral arrangement of Eleanor Rigby This is not the same arrangement we listened to when the record first was released in the 60s. And just to make it even more interesting, when Eleanor Rigby ends, it transitions amidst a background chorus right into the haunting and beautiful Julia which transitions into police sirens followed by I Am Walrus.
Another incredibly creative transition involves Drive My Car (with horns) drifting into The Word which then becomes What Youre Doing and ends with a Drive My Car reprise. The entire show and album are a delight of song combinations that could never have been imagined. For me, another musical high point of the show was listening to While My Guitar Gently Weeps by George Harrison alone on acoustic guitar. He is only backed by a string section lending an air beauty, brilliance and simplicity to a song that ranks as one of the best ever recorded. Its hard not remember all the wonderful aspects of Georges life and be somewhat melancholy that he is no longer with us. That was perhaps the only time in the show that my mood changed but only momentarily. You cannot be anything but cheerful experiencing this show.

I went to the show with a friend of mine. He bought the album. I had already downloaded the album to my I-Pod. We both thoroughly enjoyed the show and reminded ourselves of it by continually that week by playing the album when we returned to our respective rooms each night. No matter how often I played it, a smile came to my face.
Evenings at the theater can sometimes be pleasant, uplifting or occasionally disappointing. Seeing this show had an incredibly positive effect on the audience. There was an air of excitement when we entered and there was a feeling of warmth when we left. A person exiting in front of me told us she had seen the show on three other occasions and it was a happy experience for her every time she saw it.
Marcel Proust once wrote that those who make us happy are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. The Beatles music has always made me happy and the show did the same.

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