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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 VIVA ELVIS 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.

Banana Shpeel, Viva Elvis, and BELIEVE weren't the company's only problems. ZAIA, in Macau, was in free-fall too.

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...


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 "Festival 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 Championships (28th).

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 TOTEM's).


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.


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).

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