BWW Reviews: Cirque du Soleil's IRIS Pays Homage to Old Hollywood
As someone who has spent his formative years growing up in Las Vegas, there have only been a scant few years in my life when I didn't know the existence of Cirque du Soleil. Even today, it seems like you can't go a few yards on the Strip without coming across one of their shows' striking marquees (not to mention the many other shows they have touring the globe). Indeed, the Montréal-based purveyor of fantastical, imaginative shows has for decades now remained synonymous for showcasing the beautiful, often unbelievable physical feats of extraordinary humans—all gift-wrapped in an artful, sophisticated package full of whimsy and whiz-bang entertainment.
So to experience the debut of a brand-new, specially-conceived-for-its-venue spectacular right from the start—in the very city that inspired it—is just incredibly exciting. A truly well-conceived creation, IRIS: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE WORLD OF CINEMA takes the magic of Cirque du Soleil's jaw-dropping big-top acts and infuses it with the familiar images, milestones, and iconography of early moviemaking. With plans to have the show be a decade-long permanent fixture at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood—the venue specifically built to serve as the permanent home of the Annual Academy Awards ceremony—audiences will have plenty of chances to see this rousing, entertaining show.
Using an expertly crafted combination of state-of-the-art projections (both live and pre-filmed), inventive digital stage effects, colorful costumes, imaginative sets, dazzling choreography, a triumphant musical score by the one and only Danny Elfman, and, of course, an impressive, ethnically diverse troupe of talented performers unique to their universe, the show revels in its love of all things Hollywood. Hypnotic and gorgeous from start to finish, the thrilling IRIS turns celluloid beauty into living stage art. It is arguably Cirque du Soleil's most artistic rendering of a single thematic motif to date, and is absolutely the perfect show to call the Kodak Theatre home.
Written and directed by Philippe Decouflé, this new show is engulfed in the manic sights and sounds of old Hollywood, taking the audience through a breathtaking tour across multiple film genres and even into the imaginative realm that exists somewhere between shadows and light—which, in essence, are the elements that create Moving Pictures. Perhaps to compliment the setting of the famous venue that houses it, everything here feels much more grand and opulent, from the sweeping, lyrical movements of each character to the kaleidoscope of set pieces that feel alive and vibrant.
In between the hilarious comic bits and awe-inducing displays of athleticism, you'll be feasting in an endless buffet of eye candy. Visually, IRIS evokes an eye-popping mash-up of the silent era-grandeur of D.W. Griffith with the bold audaciousness of Cecil B. DeMille and the more modern technicolor outlandishness of Baz Luhrmann. It's The Greatest Show On Earth meets Moulin Rouge with a little Modern Times thrown in—as envisioned through the aperture of a 3D cinematographer with a silly sense of humor and a penchant for beautiful pathos. There's so much to see in this brilliantly art directed show that there were times that I found my attention traversing the stage to scan something else, just to take all of it in and to make sure I didn't miss anything. Even sideline characters and dancers are caught in the moments that create such beautiful images.
Though the show harkens to the Hollywood that was still in its infancy a century ago, the era portrayed in the show—ruled by silent film stars that were recruited from vaudeville stages—is recreated with the technical wizardry and pop-savvy wit of a modern day impresario. Punctuating the entire show is the recurring story of adorkable but morose film composer Buster (Raphael Cruz, looking very Buster Keaton-like in looks and mannerisms) who falls for a lovely aspiring actress, a pixie-haired ingenue named Scarlett (Alice Dufour, then later Olga Pikhienko during the stunning hand-balancing finalé). The two would-be paramours often run into each other as they navigate through the industry, each carving out very different paths in the 'biz. As often found in Cirque shows, the separation between the worlds of reality and make-believe often blur, and here, the art form of film itself lends well to this very conceit.