Brian Jones/Las Vegas News Bureau
Monday, Jan. 4, 2010 | 4:11 p.m.
An on-and-off schedule of preview performances of Cirque du Soleil’s new spectacular Viva Elvis at the new Aria in MGM’s CityCenter has set rumors in motion that the show is undergoing major changes.
Last night was the end of a run of previews. There are no previews tonight, tomorrow, Wednesday or Thursday. There’s one preview set for Friday, and then no previews next week. No preview shows are scheduled for Jan. 31 through Feb. 4 or Feb. 7 and 8. Then they resume for the still-planned premieres on Feb. 19 and 20. Previously planned dark days Wednesdays and Thursdays remain on the schedule.
The awkward announcement “you must check the box office for times and performances” started Canadian media rumors that Viva Elvis is undergoing major changes to satisfy Cirque officials, who have said after early previews that “the show is not yet where we want it.”
But when I checked with Cirque officials over the weekend, I was told that it’s all part of the normal process. “The preview performance schedule for Viva Elvis remains relatively unchanged since tickets went on sale in December and has been designed to allow artistic and technical revisions to be implemented and rehearsed based on audience feedback. The show is expected to open as planned on Feb. 19, “ a Cirque executive said.
The Toronto Globe & Mail reported over the holiday weekend: The Montreal-based company has two big new shows in preview performances right now -- and both have been marked by production setbacks and bad buzz. Banana Shpeel, an ambitious New York-bound attempt to reinvent vaudeville for the 21st century, was massacred in the reviews of its out-of-town tryout in Chicago last month. This week, its upcoming reopening at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan was pushed back three weeks, to Feb. 24.
Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Viva Elvis, a new musical “abstract biography” of the king of rock ’n’ roll, began preview performances just before Christmas. But its official opening, originally planned for what would have been Elvis’ 75th birthday on Jan. 8, was recently delayed (for a second time) to Feb. 19.
“The show is not complete, and it’s not what we wish,” creative executive Gilles Ste-Croix told theater reviewer Mike Weatherford as Cirque began to sell tickets. The newspaper said that it had requested interviews about the two shows, but none were granted.
Vegas DeLuxe posted interviews with members of Viva Elvis’ creative team last month. Director Vincent Paterson, who previously staged tours by Madonna and Michael Jackson, previously told me that he always planned after last night’s show to give the cast these upcoming breaks from preview shows for continuing rehearsals. So there is no surprise there. He also said it would be the time to take audience feedback into account and make any required changes.
The Globe & Mail quoted Mike Weatherford that Cirque had to conquer new entertainment areas if it wanted continued growth without cannibalizing its own audiences: “Viva Elvis, much more than The Beatles’ Love, will have to show that they can Americanize their production and aesthetic. An Elvis show can’t look French-Canadian.”
Cirque officials have always used previews to make creative changes and polish performances -- and indeed continue with their “fixation” process throughout the life of all their shows. The Globe & Mail commented: “Founder Guy Laliberte’s team does have a long and storied history of saving the day.”
Celebrities see Cirque
Meantime, celebrities led by silver screen legend Elizabeth Taylor were spotted at many Cirque du Soleil Strip shows over the holiday weekend: Elizabeth, in a wheelchair and flashing her famous Krup diamond, went to Love at The Mirage on New Year’s Day. Elizabeth visited Las Vegas for New Year’s as a guest of Elaine Wynn and stayed at the Wynn, where she also saw Le Reve and attended Elaine’s welcome 2010 dinner party.
Actress Kirsten Dunst and her Maroon 5 rocker beau Adam Levine also watched Love while enjoying popcorn and Patron tequila. Ryan Gosling also attended The Beatles musical. Over at Bellagio, O attracted singer Leona Lewis, actor Lou Ferrigno, Mix Master Mike of The Beastie Boys, comedian Carlos Mencia and DJ Muggs of Cypress Hill. Carrot Top took a break from his Luxor show to check out Zumanity at New York-New York.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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