BWW Reviews: Cirque du Soleil's Brilliant IRIS Premieres at Kodak Theatre
Cirque du Soleil's
written & directed by Philippe Decoufle
Consistently inventive and imaginative, Cirque du Soleil lights up Hollywood Boulevard with Iris. Offering thrilling spectacle and imbued with comedic touches from the Silent Film era and beyond, Iris is a breathtaking tribute to the artistry of moviemaking. If that sounds like a lot, well, it is, but Cirque du Soleil's capabilities are limitless; their shows never cease to amaze in ingeniously novel ways. It's entertainment guaranteed.
When I attended the press preview in June, I was blown away by the opening and by twins Andrew and Kevin Atherton, the aerial straps duo (above), whose performance has to be seen to be believed: two men who move as one, some of the most incredible symmetry I have ever witnessed. They also presented the scene depicting the gangster era in films where trampoline artistry is at an all-time high. I knew from these three pieces alone that the show would be brilliant.
What makes Iris different from other Cirque shows is that it is really Hollywood. The film capital of the world gets a detailed treatment from an historical perspective, and Cirque makes it magical via a uniquely fresh interpretation. Take some of the mechanical apparatuses that move about the studio that ressemble, say... R2D2 with a mind of their own. There are cameramen filming the performers as they enter and exit; their images are simultaneously projected on the screen in the background. Then there are the clowns, who always more than satisfy. Cirque's clowns do more than just clown, they serve a purpose. Eric Davis (aka Al Smith), for example, goes about looking for various ways to get noticed by casting people. When he is rejected - which is most of the time - at someone's suggestion, he reinvents himself. Like Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie, he dresses up as a woman, gets nominated for an award, but loses to a total unknown. That's show biz, folks! The awards scene is a very funny bit. My friend Stan Mazin was unknowingly chosen as an onscreen nominee- and when Ekaterina Pirogovskaya, the Russian clown who actually wears an enlarged piece of moving celluloid around her waist, lost, she leaped into my lap before departing the floor. Could only happen in Hollywoodland!
Buster, played by Raphael Cruz, is the leading character of Iris, as he searches in the movies, for his one and only true love, who turns out to be blossoming star Scarlet, played by Alice Dufour. There is a delicate handstand that she essays in Act II where emotions run high. I do not wish to spoil all the fun by giving away the acts - every one of which, by the way, assist in enhancing one's understanding of the origins of film images and how they transformed through the years, but, apart from the Atherton twins, my other favorite is the live filmstrip which wondrously shows movement from one frame to the next. It's a breathtaking display of artistry, as well as all of the acrobatic stunts, contortionists, high-flying aerials including trapeze ... and the thrilling finale in 3D. Equally riveting throughout the presentation are the special effect images of the live acts projected on the screen behind. Film-making at work! Watch the blowup photo faces on stage left and right: whiskers and eyes are constantly in motion.
Multi award-winning Danny Elfman's musical score is sheer bliss incorporating a wide variety of different musical genres. To say that Decoufle's direction is brilliant...well, that truly is an understatement. There is no excuse not to see Iris many times over. It will be at the Kodak for 10 years. Yeah, Hollywood, like Vegas and NYC, now has its very own Cirque du Soleil show. Iris: A Journey Through the World of Cinema.