Thursday, June 16th, was Cirque du Soleil Day in Los Angeles. It was 27 years ago this week that they performed their first show, in a concert here, and now they have revealed in a 'sneak' preview which I just attended their new, first-time-ever-in-L.A. permanent show, a journey through the world of cinema called Iris, which will occupying the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland center starting in previews July 21st and opening officially on September 25th, under the sponsorship of Sun Life Financial.
I think I can modestly say that I am uniquely equipped to write about and review this event. As a journalist, I am a regular blogger for the Huffington Post as well as publishing (for 26 years) the well-known Jay Weston's Restaurant Newsletter, which is widely read nationally. And as a film producer, I have been making movies for 40+ years, from the Academy-nominated Lady Sings the Blues to W.C. Fields & Me to co-producing the last film which director Billy Wilder helmed, Buddy, Buddy, which co-starred Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.
Iris will be a resident production created exclusively for the Kodak Theatre, home of the Academy Awards. In a brief conversation which I conducted in halting French and English with director Philippe Decouflé, he explained that the movie is "a poetic phantasmagoria" (yes, I had him spell it out for me) inspired by the world of cinema, an imaginary journey through the evolution of film from the foundations of the art form to the bustle of the soundstage -- through optical effects and film genres. He added that Iris transposes into a language of dance and acrobatics all of cinema's splendor, inventiveness and -- above all -- its sense of wonder. At the sneak preview this morning, they began with two acrobats who, in harness, soared above our heads, causing me to comment that if Spider Man on Broadway had their unique talents, they would not have failed so spectacularly. Then they illustrated with some film and live performances just a small taste of what the final show will display. When the two young heroes -- Buster and Scarlett -- find themselves plunged into the joyful chaos of a film set, their escapades transport the spectator (that's you and me) into "a kaleidoscope of movement, moods and images." Philippe revealed that a live eight-person musical ensemble will play at every performance, and introduced me to legendary film composer Danny Elfman, who is creating the music for the film.
Cirque's Director of Creation, Jean-Francois Bouchard, tried to elaborate for me what they are striving to accomplish, and I picked up that it will be a place between motion and picture, light and sound, which shifts constantly between reality and make-believe. He explained that they will combine dance, acrobatics, live video, film footage and interactive projects. He waved his hands at me and said in halting English, "The show will illustrate both the mechanics of cinema and the extraordinary power to deceive the eye." Intriguing but not very illuminating.
Later, in the lobby of the Kodak Theatre, Cirque du Soleil CEO and President, Daniel Lamarre said that he conceived of this project in 2002 when they were asked to perform a number at the Academy Awards, and he suddenly realized that they were destined to create a cinema work that would define the film art. I don't know about you, but I can honestly say that I have been an ardent fan of this amazing organization since I first saw them 27 years ago. From a group of 20 street performers at the beginning of 1984, Cirque is now a major Quebec-based outfit providing unique entertainment to the entire world. (Yes, Las Vegas is included in this world.) Daniel said they are now 5,000 people strong, with some 1,500 performing artists from 50 different countries. Later, I learned that they have brought wonder and delight to more than 100 million spectators in nearly 300 cities on six continents.
So, I can only suggest that you go on line at www.cirquedusoliel.com/IRIS or call 1-877-943-IRIS... tickets range from $43 to $133 (VIP tix are $253). I know where I will be seated on July 21st, and hope you will join me. It will be quite a cinematic journey!
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