The show was done "in reverse" of what the Cirque creators were used to, according to the show's creation director, Chantal Tremblay. Usually the Cirque shows are focused on the acrobatic routines and the performers, and the music is written around that. But this time, the Beatles' music comes first, and the storyline is written to fit that music.
The characters are incredibly surreal, and interesting medleys and fragments of Beatles music are fused with each other in a way that is extremely effective. The Beatles voices are sometimes in conversation as their silhouettes are periodically shown on the screens. Even a VW Beetle is featured with the license plate "28 IF" as it is shown on the cover of Abbey Road, commemorating not just the album, but a tongue in cheek reference to the "Paul is Dead" hoax.
Jean Rabasse, the set designer, spent a rumored $100 million creating a set that would "surround the Beatles with a bubble" and make each person in the 2,000 seat theater feel closely connected with the performance. The most technologically advanced theater ever built, the stage is in the center, with jutting aisles that allow the performers to come in and out of various entrances. Scenes contain moving platforms, changing skies, and huge video screens.
There are two huge 2,000 square foot panoramic screens on the far walls, and four other semi-transparent screens that scroll into the stage area at various times, giving each person a close-up view of various images of the Beatles.
George Martin and his son Giles created the soundtrack from 200 Beatles songs (including studio takes), from the original master tapes. This was no easy task, when you consider that just 30 full songs would fill a 90-minute show. Most of the numbers are dramatic re-mixes in a "mash-up" style that is becoming so popular with contemporary music. There is no actual song list for the show because of the fact that only fragments of many songs are used throughout the production. For example, imagine hearing Ringo's drum solo on Abbey Road, while it flows into the opening beats of "Get Back." The effect is stunning and keeps the production moving so startlingly quick, you are always surprised at what you are seeing and hearing.
Sir George said while they wanted to be sure to use solid hits in the score, he wasn't out to make it "the best of" the Beatles. They used many interesting and lesser-known pieces, fragments, parts of demos, and even some conversations of the Beatles in the studio, that would make the production seem intimate and real. With 6,341 speakers, (including three speakers in each seat), the technology in this panoramic theater makes you feel that you are sitting right there with the Beatles in the studio. As Sir George commented, "people are going to be knocked out by what they are hearing!"
Indeed, the magic would be lost if the full song-list were published, just as trying to describe the full show itself is impossible to do. What follows is a general outline of the show, and my reactions to it; but the magic is in experiencing the show itself. I strongly recommend that every Beatle fan see it. It's a transforming experience, one you will not regret.
LOVE Red Carpet Premiere, June 2006
The gala premiere on June 30, 2006 created the Beatles family reunion we never thought would happen-- Sir George Martin and son Giles, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and wife Barbara Bach, Yoko Ono, Olivia Harrison and son Dhani, even John's first wife Cynthia and son Julian Lennon all strolled down the red carpet to talk to reporters and have photos taken before entering the theater. Sean Lennon, John's son with Yoko, was unfortunately a no-show.
It was a star-studded event that also included Siegfried and Roy, in a respectful torch-passing for the theater that previously included their tiger act; Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys; all the members of Ringo's 2006 All Starr Band, who performed the next night, Sheila E, Edgar Winter, Rod Argent, Richard Marx, Billy Squier, and Hamish Stuart. Composer and Harrison friend Jeff Lynne was there, as well as Neil Aspinall (Director of Apple), Eric Idle (Monty Python), Vegas legend Robert Goulet, Debbie Harrie (Blondie), actor Paul Reiser, Michael Richards (Kramer of Seinfeld), Little Steven Van Zandt (Sopranos), and the infamous Carrot Top.
Click here to see PHOTOS from the LOVE red carpet premiere
Continue to The Beatles Remastered