Meet Du Soleil

Beatles, Cirque du Soleil teaming up
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Beatles and Cirque du Soleil are banding together to create a powerhouse theatrical production at the Mirage hotel-casino to replace the legendary Siegfried & Roy act that closed more than a year ago.
This is the first time the Beatles have teamed up to do a major theatrical partnership after carefully guarding its popular music for decades, said Neil Aspinall, managing director of the band’s Apple Corps label.
The deal for the joint-venture production that is expected to cost more than $100 million US was reached this week between Cirque du Soleil, Apple and the Mirage, said Bill McBeath, the hotel-casino’s president and chief operating officer.
The yet untitled show should be ready in about 20 months, McBeath said.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Aspinall said a Las Vegas marriage with Cirque du Soleil was “too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
The Beatles had been approached with many theatrical proposals, he said, but none offered the creativity and innovation for which Cirque du Soleil is regarded.
French for “circus of the sun,” Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil is known for its acrobatic performances that blend athleticism with music and artistry. More than seven million people saw its shows around the world last year.
Aspinall said other offers amounted to nothing “more than a stage production with cover versions” of Beatles songs, not something that would burnish the Beatles’ musical legacy.
Other locations, London, New York and Tokyo also were considered but none could match Las Vegas’s appeal and its massive influx of tourists. The city is expected to top 37 million visitors this year.
“That helped tip the balance,” Aspinall said.
Another draw was the Mirage’s commitment to building a new theatre. McBeath said the theatre, under construction since August, will hold about 2,000 people and offer 360-degree seating.
The theatre replaces the one in which the German illusionists performed for about 13 years before Roy Horn was nearly killed Oct. 3, 2003, by one of his tigers. Since the mauling, the Mirage has been without its signature act.
The show not only fills a major entertainment void at the Mirage, the mega-resort that helped redefine Las Vegas, but also adds another high-dollar extravaganza to bolster the city’s pitch as the entertainment capital of the world.
Caesars Palace built Celine Dion a $95 million theatre for her A New Day show, which Concerts West produced for $30 million. The Phantom of the Opera, one of the most successful shows in the history of Broadway, is coming to the Venetian hotel-casino in 2006; and the Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q will open in September 2005 at the Wynn Las Vegas resort.
Cirque du Soleil recently announced a new $165 million show at the MGM Grand called KA.
Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte didn’t reveal much about the 90-minute Beatles show, other to say it would contain the Canadian company’s famous acrobatics and be a celebration of Beatles music.
Laliberte said the two groups, although using different mediums, complemented each other.
“They did with words what we did with images,” he said. “It’s timeless.”
Laliberte said he began discussing the idea about four and a half years ago with George Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001.
The remaining Beatles will help shape the production, though Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will not appear in the production. Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison also will collaborate on the project.
The songs to be used in the show are undecided, but Cirque du Soleil will have complete access to the Beatles’ musical archive. Other show details remained closely guarded.
“That’s a tough one,” Aspinall said. “It’s still a work in progress.”
McBeath said he expects the combination to supplant the popular Siegfried & Roy spectacle, which generated $44 million in annual revenue.
“We had anticipated Siegfried and Roy closing out their career at the end of the 2005,” McBeath said.
It turned out Laliberte had the perfect pitch.
“It was a home run,” McBeath said. “There was no equivocation as to whether this would be successful or not.”
The investment should improve the fortunes of the aging Mirage, a gilded hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip that Steve Wynn opened in 1989.
“I think this show is the most important statement The Mirage could make after 15 years,” McBeath said.
This is Cirque du Soleil’s fifth show in Las Vegas, and Laliberte suggested it wouldn’t be the last. He called Las Vegas a gold mine.
“If I can be producing 10 shows, I’ll be producing 10 shows.”
It will a homecoming of sorts for the Beatles. The band last played Las Vegas in 1964, playing two performances at the Las Vegas Convention Center.