CIRQUE SLIPS ON ITS OWN SHPEEL
Though Cirque du Soleil would launch three new productions in 2010 —
VIVA ELVIS, presented at ARIA Resort
& Casino, becomes Cirque's seventh resident show in Las Vegas (January); and
TOTEM, a look at human evolution by
director Robert Lepage, which celebrates its world premiere in Montreal come April —
it's BANANA SHPEEL, Cirque's twist on
Vaudeville, which arrives at the Beacon Theatre in New York City after a preview run
in Chicago, that steals the headlines. And not in a flattering way.
When Banana Shpeel opened for
limited preview performances in Chicago on November 19, 2009, the show not only failed
to connect with critics, it also failed to connect with audiences – a flop of major
proportions. And it didn't take long for the negative reviews to make the rounds. Then
the changes started rolling in, prompting Cirque to postpone the original February
opening in New York City to allow for more rehearsals. It came as no surprise then when
the premiere was then pushed to March, and then later April. The changes drove
speculation that the show (and the company) was in imminent danager of collapsing
completely. Had Cirque du Soleil unleashed a lemon of a banana? With reviews for
CRISS ANGEL BELIEVE and
in Las Vegas also lack-luster, patrons and fans seriously began to wonder.
Undaunted, Cirque then announced Banana Shpeel
was "under new management" – enter Marty Schmelky. The production – now "a riot of
ha-ha's, la-la's and ta-da's" rather than "a new twist on vaudeville", would begin
performances on April 29th with a gala premiere on May 21st. If all was successful,
the show would run through August 29th. But all would not be successful. Still unable
to find an audience, on June 14th, producers gave Marty Schmelky "the hook" and the
announced the show would hold its final New York performance on Sunday, June 27th -
a full two months early - with a hefty discount on tickets. Closing NYC would not be the
end to Banana Shpeel's legacy, however.
The company attempted to take the show on tour - first to Toronto and then to San
Francisco after a "fair bit of tweaking" had been done. Alas, audiences didn’t like
the show in Toronto any more than they had in New York City or Chicago before it –
reviews were awful. And so all future engagements were abruptly canceled and the concept
quietly died away, with its last performance on Sunday, November 14th.
Viva Elvis, and
BELIEVE weren't the company's only
problems. ZAIA, in Macau, was in
Jerry Nadal, SVP Resident Shows, had to re-iterate that Cirque was at the Venetian
Macau for the long haul. "ZAIA is here to stay, at least for eight more years.
No conversation was held between Cirque du Soleil and Venetian about terminating the
show before the end of the ten-year contract". Although he admited the show’s occupancy
results were far from what were initially expected. "When the Venetian was designed and
built, it was with the convention business in mind rather than the casino tourism."
Sales and marketing efforts were geared toward a segment that didn't materialize. Hotel
occupancy wasn't there and, as a result, it wasn't there in the showroom. This may beg
the question: did Cirque need to bring a different product to succeed in Macau? "ZAIA is
the right show for Macau," Nadal said. "We have no intention of changing the show."
But changes were afoot and unltimately they would not prove successful.
Despite the down economy, Mr. Laliberté was aggressively making "optimistic plans,"
he said, adding that "we've gone through three recessions in Cirque history, and they
were all growth periods for us. But we are not tsunami-proof."
Given the shaky economic times one might ask why has Cirque decided to try something
new, instead of sticking with the tried and true? Mike Weatherford, a long-time Las Vegas
observer who has followed the company's fortunes for the Review-Journal, suggests
that Cirque needs to conquer new areas of entertainment if it wants to continue to
grow without cannibalizing it own audience. As well, he adds, the company's new
projects need to move away from Cirque's colourful, gibberish-filled comfort zone.
And that's what they intend to do...
SHOWS AND SPECIAL EVENTS
Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL
World Tour was unveiled in April. By June, the second chapter of
Les Chemins Invisibles
plays to audiences in Montreal while the special events team helps launch Microsoft's
highly-anticipated motion capture peripheral -
KINECT - for the XBOX 360 gaming
console (the event required a crew of 200 and a cast of 76 artists to pull off. The
45-minute production was held over 2 nights to 3,000 guests, and was filmed for a 30
minute TV program.)
Cirque then partakes in the inauguraul Montréal Complètement Cirque,
an international circus arts festival in their hometown, to great success (July), but
stumbles a bit at the Charlottetown Summerfest's
of Light". The Cirque had signed a three-year contract with the festival to
perform a custom-made street show; however, Summerfest 2010 did not go nearly as well
as anticipated and both Charlottetown and Cirque canceled their agreement. In August,
"O" celebrates it's 10
millionth guest (4th), OVO
celebrates it's 500th show (14th), and Cirque performs at the 2010 FIBA
In September, Cirque announces a show for Radio City Music Hall in New York City
(to be directed by acclaimed film and theatre director François Girard.) In October,
Mystère celebrates it's 8,000th
performance; Cirque du Soleil, James Cameron (Titanic, AVATAR), and Andrew Adamson
(Shrek, Chronicles of Narnia), join their creative forces to develop and produce
immersive theatrical 3D projects (with more information to come); and
DRALION is restaged in arenas (it
held it's final big top show on December 31, 2009). By year's end the music to to
Criss Angels' show at the Luxor - BELIEVE -
finally gets released (as does OVO's and
OTHER ENDEAVOURS AND NEWS
On May 25th, Cirque Éloize announced the signing of a strategic partnership with
Cirque du Soleil, to promote the implementation of Cirque Éloize’s development
strategy, enabling it to enhance its visibility on the international market.
"The partnership with Cirque du Soleil bodes very well for the future of Cirque
Éloize, which is arriving at a crossroad in its history. It will enable us to solidify
our role as a leader in the creation and marketing of contemporary theatre-based circus
performances that combine theatricality and the circus acts. We are proud to have
Cirque du Soleil as one of our partners," stated Jeannot Painchaud, President and
General Director of Cirque Éloize.
"Our strategic partnership with Cirque Éloize is above all a business decision that
will strengthen Québec's position as the world capital of the circus arts. This
partnership affirms our respect for the unique creative force of Cirque Éloize and
firmly shows our support for the existing team, as well as its vision and potential
for growth. We also plan to share with our new partner the international business
expertise that we've acquired over the years," said Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO
of Cirque du Soleil.
Cirque Éloize has made a name for itself in recent years on the international stage,
particularly in Asia. "New markets are opening up to our current and future productions.
This partnership with Cirque du Soleil will enable us to take full advantage of these
promising markets, and its spinoffs will continue to benefit all of Quebec," continued
Mr. Painchaud. Under this agreement, Cirque Éloize will continue to promote the revival
of the circus arts while reaffirming its leadership role in creating shows that can
easily travel the globe.
Then, on November 22nd, at Hollywood & Highland, a
smooth-scalped man in a black leather jacket, jeans and sneakers got a red-carpet
treatment that royalty might envy. Not one, but two, L.A. City Council members took
turns gushing over him. His fellow countryman, the director James Cameron, praised the
honoree as a theatrical magus who conjures "living dreams," populated with aerialists,
acrobats and clowns that are actually amusing. Then, as a beaming Hollywood Chamber of
Commerce representative looked on, Guy Laliberté, the press-shy billionaire founder and
CEO of Cirque du Soleil, stepped forward to unveil his and Cirque's shiny new star, the
2,424th on the Walk of Fame. The star is located strategically in front of the Kodak
Theater (now Dolby Theater), where Cirque du Soleil is scheduled to launch
IRIS: A Journey Through the World of Cinema
on July 21, 2011 (it would close by January 19, 2013). Mr Laliberté
was surrounded by a number of characters from his shows including a "Cameraman" and
"Armchair" characters from IRIS. "Today, I was simply the representative of everyone
who has worked for Cirque du Soleil," Laliberté said.
SPOTLIGHT: THE CANADIAN PAVILION
Cirque enhanced its visibility at EXPO 2010 in Shanghai by designing Canada's pavilion
for the exposition, which ran from May 1st through October 31st. As part of a collaborative
agreement with the Government of Canada, Cirque du Soleil was responsible for organizing
the pavilion's public presentation, producing the cultural program, and developing
strategic corporate alliances under the theme, "The Living City: Inclusive, Sustainable,
Creative", which reflected Canada's history and democratic values. The design of the
pavilion incorporated a performance area, where visitors could watch performances of
the Cirque before visiting the main pavilion area, which were designed with environmental
protection concepts in mind. Parts of the pavilion's exterior walls were covered by
greenery and rainwater was collected by a drainage system for use inside the pavilion.
The overall budget was $45 million CAD.
Cirque du Soleil and the Canada Council for the Arts put together a group of more
than 150 talented Canadian musicians, dancers, and theatre, visual, media, and literary
artists that performed at the Canada Pavilion and at several different venues on the
Expo 2010 site. Such as: Jamie Adkins - Circus Incognitus (Ontario), Bedouin Soundclash
(Ontario), Bob & Bill (Quebec), Gregory Charles (Quebec), Dancers of Damelahamid
(British Columbia), Mark DeJong (Saskatchewan), Dr. Draw (Ontario), Grand Derangement
(Nova Scotia), Hey Rosetta! (Newfoundland and Labrador), Daniel Lavoie (Manitoba),
Alain Lefevre (Quebec), Paper Lions (Prince Edward Island), Ariane Moffat (Quebec),
MOVE: the company (British Columbia), Red Sky Performance (Ontario), Tanya Tagaq
(Nunavut), Marie-Jo Therio (New Brunswick), Kreesha Turner (Alberta), Jean-Philippe
Tremblay (Quebec), and Shane Yellowbird (Alberta).