Concord Music Hall
Jeremy Wagner
Lovers Lane

The Beatles’ “Love” reviewed

| July 18, 2007 | 0 Comments

Beatles: Love
Mirage, Las Vegas
Saturday, July 14, 2007

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The controversey surrounding “Love” is understandable if you haven’t seen the production. Select, high-profile Beatles songs have been either remixed or replaced with demos for the Cirque De Soleil to dance to, all for the most discriminating of audiences: Las Vegas showgoers. Next month: flogging Pope Benedict.

People have problems with the remixes: Don’t mess with sacred artifacts. Others question bringing in Cirque De Soleil: Did you see the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies? Few people realize the project was conceived by the late George Harrison and Cirque founder Guy Laliberte. Las Vegas is actually pretty innocent here.

When you actually go, however, things come together quite nicely. Despite overbearing volume, “Love” is an unqualified success as entertainment. Director Dominic Champagne has skillfully woven the music, studio banter, choreography, and Beatles imagery into an eye-popping 90-minute suite. Situated at a special, in-the-round theater inside the Mirage hotel and casino, the 60-member cast bounds through ideas abstract, historical, and fantastical.

On a technical front, the special effects, costumes, and props are stunning; mainly evoking The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen or Tim Burton’s idea of the Willy Wonka story. People and items are constantly parading across the stage, arising from movable sections of it, or falling from the sky. Early on during “Get Back,” there are so many performers traipsing around their numbers are overwhelming, which leads us to one of the main disappointments of “Love”: At times the music barely ranks second.

Given the decibel level this nearly seems impossible, but without a clear narrative the opening half-hour is spent looking for any consistent thread. We’re presented with a shabbily dressed man who’s constantly holding out a ragged bouquet, though his role (nor really those of many others) isn’t explained. Props are added with haste for “Eleanor Rigby,” and by this point it’s clear Cirque won’t be getting too Olympic on us. The first concrete connections between the music and historical Beatlemania footage arrives for “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” but then the production gets oddly lazy and literal in its “Grease”-y production of “Drive My Car.”

Highlights included a “Yesterday” covered in nostalgia with kids and couples in a park, “Blackbird” brought in some chilling, Hitchcock-esque silhouettes (silhouettes were actually some of the most striking visual stunts), while “Come Together,” “Revolution,” and “Back In The U.S.S.R.” teemed with Vietnam protesters and youthful angst. Visually, nothing eclipsed the rain/static effect produced by some dangling light ropes for “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” — justifying the $150 million budget completely.

Oddly, given Harrison’s involvement, his songs were often bungled. “Here Comes The Sun” clearly drew on his fascination with Eastern religions but did so in stereotypical, vapid-hippie fashion. For “Something,” a palpable eroticism was introduced with four women in flowing gowns trapezing to and fro, but it was also an exploitation of the lyrics, and turned a monogamous ode into one of near-chauvanistic carnality. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was merely boring.

Halfway through the show, “Love” finally stressed the “new” recordings, as silhouetted actors recreated John, Paul, George, and Ringo stopping and starting through a recording session, teasing with a raw intro of “Lady Madonna” before settling on “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

The final third brought the most amazing visuals from a cloud city for “Tomorrow Never Knows,” a fantastical and somewhat jarring reverie for “A Day In The Life,” and the jubilant, ticker-tape bombast of “Hey Jude.” It all set the closer, “All You Need Is Love,” up to be misleading. There’s clearly more to The Beatles than just plain love, something exhaustingly argued by this ranging production.

— Steve Forstneger

Category: Live Reviews, Weekly

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