Review of The Beatles LOVE
Cirque du Soleil show
by Shelley Germeaux
[Note: Slight changes to the show may have been made since this review was written in July 2006.]
As the lights begin to dim, the first thing you hear is the Beatles themselves, as if they are back stage talking to each other over an open mic, talking about the show about to begin, and laughing. A deep blue sky unfolds above us as four Nowhere Men, Sgt. Pepper, and the Fool slowly cross the stage, fog filtering out from under their umbrellas. Already the hair is standing up on my arm. The acapella version of the song "Because" begins in pristine, crystal clear sound, and I can hear the Beatles voices, and the sound of their breath, in my ear, with the help of the speaker embedded in my headrest.
The emotion I immediately felt with such a powerful opening was nearly indescribable. Sailors begin to slowly climb up ropes toward the sky in anticipation. Suddenly the stage explodes into the rooftop of Savile Row for their final performance, with Ringo's pounding drum solo on Abbey Road, as it forms the opening chords of "Get Back" and dancers energetically burst onto the scene to rock out with the music.
Suddenly the brick walls are now being crashed into and destroyed by flying acrobats, and you realize this is now a war zone by seeing the images on the video screens; the dark days of WWII when Liverpool was bombed relentlessly around the time the boys were born. Sgt. Pepper's band has been destroyed and he collects the rubble of old instruments, representing the death of the Big Band era. Eleanor Rigby, a frail old woman, is now emerging from the back, bringing what belongings and memories she has left to her name, as the melancholy song plays, amongst lifeless bodies and grey rubble.
Beatlemania then becomes the theme in an exhilarating burst of renewed energy, with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "Drive My Car" as the VW Beetle is driven out. Here, four Beatles in suits jump and fly across trampoline walls and in and out of the car, reminiscent of scenes from "A Hard Day's Night."
My daughter asked me why the Ku-Klux-Klan figures appeared during the frenzied circus-like scene during "The Benefit of Mr. Kite." She didn't notice Mr. Kite's declaration that "across the South, people were upset that the Beatles thought they were more important than Jesus Christ" and the video screen across the back showing Beatles records being burned. This scene depicts all the craziness at that time of Beatlemania, as many events are going on at one time.
In many scenes during the 90-minute show, there is so much going on in each part of the stage, deciding which part of the stage to watch is a dilemma. We did attend a second night, and when seated in a different section, the show seemed completely different at times. I saw things I didn't notice the first night.
Next in "Help", also symbolic of the way the Beatles began to feel with so much fame, four roller-bladers come screaming on stage to race up tall curved ramps with death-defying twists and jumps. In the scenes to follow, Dr. Robert tries to help four mangled blackbirds in a humorous scene, and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" soars through the air. During the dream-like sequence featuring "Within You, Without You", and "Tomorrow Never Knows", the audience is covered by a gigantic billowing sheet. Then just as quickly as it appeared, it magically disappears into the center of the stage.
Translucent umbrellas become jellyfish, and other undersea creatures glide to "Octopus' Garden" along with a lullaby of "Good Night". A pregnant Lady Madonna dances with her lover, Sugar Plum Fairy, with children at her feet, in celebration of motherhood.
"Here Comes the Sun" symbolizes the beginning of the spiritual phase the Beatles experienced, with extremely interesting yoga moves and a gigantic ornamental sun, exuding a tranquil moment of enlightenment. "Something" is a beautiful, sensuous scene symbolizing the women that began to capture the Beatles' hearts and slowly lure them into family life. "Revolution" depicts Flower Power as hippies attempt to hand flowers to unwilling police officers surrounding smoke-filled telephone booths.
As the show seems to tumble too quickly toward what you know is getting close to the end, "A Day in the Life" starts, and four sets of headlights emerge from the wings, symbolizing four Beatles on a collision course. The VW Beetle strikes Julia, portraying her death in the car accident that killed her. The Beetle is shattered into a thousand pieces and carried off stage as she floats lifeless up to Heaven. Four young Liverpool boys stand in shock. One of them, whom I assume is John, runs off the stage. The other three scatter.
I was stunned at this moment, as the tears would not stop flowing down my face. The events that were depicted by this scene were multi-faceted and intensely heartbreaking: Julia's death, the break up of the Beatles (the Beetle), and John "running away" in his devastation, causing the other three to be displaced.
"Hey Jude" then slowly begins as petals rain from the sky, promising to "make it better" and offer reconciliation. "Sgt. Pepper" and "All You Need is Love" explode the ending into joy and dancing, as translucent images of each Beatle appear on the four screens now moving into the stage. To be quite honest, I was so mesmerized by those that I forgot to watch the dancers. This was the ending, after all, as streamers fell around me, and I just wanted to watch their images. By this time, they felt real, too. I was seated closest to the image of George, who seemed to knowingly gaze down on the crowd. I can't tell you how emotional I felt at that moment. Still wiping tears from my eyes as I gathered up my stuff (stuffing a streamer souvenir in my purse), I did not want to leave.
LOVE was a phenomenal, amazing show that left me spellbound and emotional. I was so moved by it that we expended some effort (and money) the next day to get standby tickets for our three teenaged kids (two girls and one boyfriend) for that night and ended up going again ourselves. The first thing the kids said when exiting the show was that they had chills for the first half hour, and that they were completely blown away. And we know how hard it is to impress teenagers these days! We all said we'd never seen anything like it before and would never forget it.
I realized that this show is a powerful medium by which to keep the Beatles music alive for the next generation. LOVE is a permanent addition to the Mirage Hotel, replacing the Siegfried and Roy show, and will create a new and lasting way of preserving the Beatles' music and history.
Reaction to the Show
After the gala premiere, Ringo Starr was quoted as saying, "The music was incredible! I was surprised with the emotion I felt when I heard the voices of George and John. Two of our brothers were in the room, even though they weren't sitting next to us."
Roger Friedman was on hand to chat with the Beatles and families after the gala premiere of the show, and in his (www.foxnews.com) report of July 3, 2006 reports that Paul McCartney was overheard saying to Ringo, "We were a pretty great group, weren't we?" Paul said it was the first time he'd watched LOVE in its entirety, adding, "I have to see it again."
Cynthia Lennon told Friedman, "I was close to tears at the end. I mean the show really moved me." In a fitting remark, as McCartney took the stage at the end of the premiere, he said "To John and George!" and the audience went wild.
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