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Cirque du Soleil: Viva a Magical Vegas Mystery Tour

Ed Rampell: Cirque du Soleil’s The Beatles LOVE is a combination of the cinematic, operatic and theatrical -- along with the acrobatic, aerial, ballet, puppetry, projections, lighting, costuming to put Liberace to shame, and more, all presented with a circus-like panache.
Cirque du Soleil

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL’S The Beatles LOVE Show Review

As a reviewer of all things cinematic, operatic and theatrical I recently went to see a couple of shows in Las Vegas, which is, after all, one of America’s top showcases of live entertainment. Cirque du Soleil’s The BeatlesLOVE is a combination of the cinematic, operatic and theatrical -- along with the acrobatic, aerial, ballet, puppetry, projections, lighting, costuming to put Liberace to shame, and more, all presented with a circus-like panache. As soon as one gets out of the cram packed, standing room only lobby inside of the Mirage into the uniquely shaped and designed, custom-built theater in the round, with its scrims and screens for projecting 100 foot digital images upon, one has that “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”sensation of “pictur[ing] yourself in a boat on a river, With tangerine trees and marmalade skies.”

Once the show begins it’s as if “Somebody calls you… A girl with kaleidoscope eyes” as “Cellophane flowers of yellow and green, Towering over your head” draw you into a production that’s more of an experience and evocation of the Beatles, their music and philosophy, instead of a chronological, straightforward narrative of their lives and careers. Rather than a tribute band performing Beatles’ songs live, the Fab Four’s longtime producer Sir George Martin and his son Giles culled cuts from Abbey Road Studios’ master tapes which accompany the mise-en-scène of 60 performers and projections on huge front and back screens, played on a panoramic surround sound system.

The beginning references the quartet’s famous outdoor, impromptu performance on the rooftop of the Abbey Road Studio in 1969, with the Beatles belting out “Get Back” from the “Let It Be” album. But the spectacle that unfolds becomes far more than a reimagining of this plein air concert. Soon the gigantic twin screens are filled with imagery of the Battle of Britain, and for the first time it dawned upon me that the Lads from Liverpool were all children born during World War II; indeed, both Ringo Starr and John Lennon were born while the Nazis blitzed England. LOVE made me realize that this played a huge role in their subsequent antipathy towards war and why, after he went solo, I heard John and Yoko croon that Lennon-composed anthem of the antiwar movement, “Give Peace a Chance”, at a Manhattan rally in the early 1970s.

Cirque du Soleil

The show doesn’t shrink from other specifically political references: There’s a great flower power sequence, which leads to hippies fighting riot police as “Revolution” blares. Another one of the Beatles’ explicitly political songs, “Blackbird”, is also played as clips of Dr. Martin Luther King appear onscreen and Black performers take the stage.

Of course, although they were musical and lyrical avatars of their tumultuous Aquarian age, there was much more to the Beatles than countercultural politics. As the name of the show suggests, love was very much a concern expressed in the songs of these young men, and there is an exceedingly lovely conjuration of “Something” from the “Abbey Road” album. Female aerialists elude an earthbound male, who reaches out for them as if he’s seeking love, perfectly expressing the romantic longings of a young man in search of a partner to soothe a seething soul and end his solitude. The piece has the grace one would imagine a Nijinsky or Nureyev ballet would have had.

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One of the great things about Love is that along with their hits such as “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Lady Madonna” (featuring a pregnant Black woman) the multi-media show includes some lesser known tunes from the Beatles’ oeuvre. Everyone knows “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” from the 1967 album of the same name, but do you remember “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” from the same LP? This track is ideal for Cirque, which launches into full raucous circus mode in evoking this perhaps forgotten (until now!) song about a festive fair. There is also a powerful version of “A Day in the Life” (which I’ve always considered to have an apocalyptic tinge), complete with a car onstage, from the same album.

And while “Sgt. Pepper’s” “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” is appropriately psychedelically rendered, complete with flying trapeze artiste, I was unable to understand a number of Cirque’s visualizations and expressions of some Beatles’ numbers. After a while I picked up on the probability that the four boys who were recurring stage characters represented the Liverpool lads during their childhoods. But I couldn’t quite grasp who other characters were supposed to be. For instance, there is a recurring old lady -- is she supposed to be John’s Aunt Mimi who raised him or a version of Brecht’s Mother Courage? Much of it went over this critic’s head -- but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy all of it, even if couldn’t quite get some of it. Somehow this only enhanced the magical mystical nature of this tour through the artistry of what is arguably rock’s greatest band of all time. (Has it really been half a century this year since they stormed The Ed Sullivan Show during the British Invasion of 1964?!)

Director/writer/co-creator Dominic Champagne’s ensemble work bubbles. Lighting Designer Yves Aucoin illuminates the space, put to stellar use by theatre and set designer Jean Rabasse. Video projection designer Francis Laporte enhances the visionary ambiance of the live performance, artfully choreographed by Hansel Cereza and Dave St-Pierre, with the cast of 60 fantastically costumed by Philippe Guillotel. Above all, the Grammy Award winning soundscape rendered by George and Giles Martin, sound designer Jonathan Deans, and last but not least, by -- you know -- John, Paul, George and Ringo is nothing short of exquisite.

Cirque du Soleil

There is one moment when Cirque does something startling with the set (which your plot spoiler averse critic won’t reveal) to make the audience and performers “Come Together” and attain a sense of the oneness and cosmic consciousness the Beatles at their strove for. Overall, LOVE is, as Harrison wrote, a “Crème tangerine and montelimar, A ginger sling with a pineapple heart” feast for the eyes and ears. Whether you’re a Beatles fan before you enter the Mirage showroom or not, as the Fab Four sang: “A splendid time is guaranteed for all” -- indeed! Never has Sin City seemed so blissful. Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Ed Rampell

The Beatles LOVE is at: The Mirage, 3400 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas, NV 89109. For info and tickets:, (702)791-7111.

Ed Rampell