By Anthony Kuzminski
Wikipedia defines the word “love” as “a range of human emotions and experiences related to the senses of affection and sexual attraction”. I know that love is far more intricate than this sixteen word definition, but it gives you a strong sense of what this little four-lettered word is capable of. It’s one of the words in the English language that is indescribable and has to be experienced to be believed. The same can be said of the Cirque Du Soleil Vegas spectacular with the not so ironic title of Love; a tour de force theatrical production inspired by the music of the Beatles. Ultimately, Love proves to be not just a jaw dropping affair but something so much more…an overwhelmingly emotional journey through the music of the Beatles that manages to feel autobiographical regardless of your age. With two colossal worlds colliding one would assume the music overshadows the production and vice versa, but I’m pleased to report this miraculous marriage of music and theater is nothing short of astounding.
Love is nearly two-years old, yet I still find many people who are aware of it but don’t quite understand what the performance entails. This is a gargantuan compliment to Cirque Du Soleil as their productions truly leave one speechless and are impossible to define merely by words. With Love they have set a bar so high I’m not sure if anyone can touch it, including themselves. Director Dominic Champagne along with music directors Sir George Martin and (his son) Giles Martin found a common ground to intertwine the music and story with characters and theatrics for a heightened emotional response.
• The 95-minute show is exclusively at the Mirage in Las Vegas
• Of the 196 master recordings of the Beatles, a total of 130 were culled to create the aural spectacular that is Love
• The theater created for Love is the most technologically advanced theater to ever grace God’s green Earth
• There are 2,013 seats in a 360-degree configuration
• The furthest row from the stage is only 98 feet from the action
• The performance includes 331 multilayered costumes
• Each chair has six speaker for a grand total of 12,000 speakers in the theater
• Over 600 stage and acrobatic props are utilized
• The stage is made up of 7 lifts, 2 sloats, traps and 1 turntable. Each lift is capable of lifting 20,000 lbs.
• There are two huge 2,000-square-foot panoramic screens which are lit up by ten 12,000-lumen projectors
As spectacular as the gravity defying acts of the Cirque troupe were, it was the music that made their auspicious physical maneuvers so distinguishing. What can one say about the Beatles? It’s futile to even try. More books have been written about the Fab Four than any other musical act on the planet. There were times when writing this review I found myself saying, “Why did I choose to do this?” Listening to any Beatles music is a simultaneously exhaustive, revealing, nostalgic and emotional experience. It’s very much like visiting an old friend, but the beauty of their music is that it’s forever timeless and as a result, carries the same emotional weight for multiple generations. My first Beatles albums were the Red (aka 1962-1966) and the Blue (aka (1960-1970) albums. The cassettes within weeks were worn down as I was shocked at how many of these songs appeared to be have pre-programmed into my DNA. Their music is so entrenched into our culture, it’s impossible to not have memories of some kind when hearing it. The music alone makes Love a must-see experience, but it’s so much more. The entire show largely indescribable and must been seen to be believed.
I can not stress enough how staggering the each and every minute of the performance is. From the moment the lights go off, the in-the-round stage hosts a mash-up of remixed Beatles numbers that are remixed in a way that makes it familiar yet completely distinguishable and distinctive from the master recordings. The veiled key characters in the show are directly inspired by individuals mentioned by name in the Beatles’ songs, and each of them had costumes stylized in a comic-book fashion. These interpretations (created by Champagne’s vision) play a decisive part in defining a character, evoking a time or place and establishing mood, atmosphere and the narrative scope of the performance. But make no mistake; the big star of Love is the music.
Opening with an a Capella and moody “Because” Love begins its journey in an area reminiscent of Liverpool in the 1940s. This is merely an intro before the thunderous “Get Back” explodes and assaults the crowd with an array of visuals and dance moves that will leave you wondering if this is as good as it gets…it isn’t, not even close. “Glass Onion” puts you in the emotional thick of the action as it takes us to a time of the four Beatles’ youth in a war torn Liverpool featuring a grim landscape which the band would eventually channel into aggression and life altering music.
The resurrection of a post-war nation is beautifully weighed with “Eleanor Rigby” before leading into the entrancing, “I Am the Walrus”. “I Want To Hold Your Hand/Drive My Car” brought the full force insanity of what we came to know as Beatlemania with Ed Sullivan sound bytes while the acrobatics of the Cirque troupe parallel the new heights the Fab Four were about the reach.
The magical mysteries continue with the angelic “Something”, the macabre circus like atmosphere of “Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” and the unhinged “Help!” which featured the mouth gaping acrobatics of four skaters defying gravity against 11-foot ramps. There are beautifying heavenly landscapes on display during “Yesterday”, “Blackbird” and “Strawberry Fields” before segueing into the hallucinogenic trip of “Within You, Without You”. This song provides a moment of audience interaction that is too momentous for me to even hint at or write about. You will just have to take me at my word on this blindly take the plunge to see the show yourself. At its conclusion, my mother in law was out of breath and hysterically uttered “Who needs drugs?” Truer words have never been spoken.
If all of this was not enough, that last act proved to be a stupendous collage of songs and supple theatrics that takes Love to a level unmatched by any other show on the planet. “Octopus’s Garden” presents a surreal voyage as does the sprawling “Lady Madonna” before the meditative tranquility of “Here Comes The Sun” takes over for a new level of spiritual consciousness. An unleashing of sexual energy and revolutionary tactics are dominant in “Come Together” and “Revolution/Back in the U.S.S.R.” while the impression of loneliness and unrequited love is showcased stunningly on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. “A Day in the Life” takes the audience on a whimsical ride that evokes loss, love, temptation, isolation, desolation and eventually resurrection at the beginning of “Hey Jude” with the consoling and chanting lyrics. The finale channels recent Paul McCartney live experiences with the “Sgt. Pepper (reprise)” finale. It’s a performance that slowly, elegantly and ultimately builds to a blinding and deafening crescendo that provides a jolt of euphoria at the conclusion of “All You Need Is Love”.
The entire 95-minute performance is brimming over with feverish sensations and is an epic magical mystery tour that cleanses the soul and deconstructs the mind. Each and every scene is handled with the utmost tenderness and attention to detail. You’re taken back to a time where hope ruled the day and irony was non-existent. You begin the evening tackling a journey to a time of innocence which slowly builds and becomes one of chaos. Yet through the thick and thin, there is one constant revealed throughout the music John, Paul, George and Ringo created…love. This is the beauty of the Beatles music; it transcends time and place so whether you are 5 or 75 you are connected to the music. No other musical act will ever be able to wear their heart on their sleeves as much and not be chastised.
Cirque Du Soleil’s Love provides an avalanche of childlike emotions through these impressive theatrical and musical interpretations. The Beatles career began and ended with a love song; is there any title more appropriate? Throughout the history of time we will forever encounter heartache, troubled times and circumstances we find hard to come to terms with. Unfortunately, history tends to repeat itself and while there may not be much we can do about it, we can find shelter from the storm through the vessel of the Beatles music proving it is enduring, forever young and that in the end it reminds us that all we truly need is love.
Anthony Kuzminski is a Chicago based writer for the antiMusic Network and his daily writings can be read at The Screen Door and can be contacted at thescreendoor AT gmail DOT com.