The Beatles are teaming up with Cirque du Soleil to create a theatrical production that will replace the legendary Siegfried & Roy act at Las Vegas’ Mirage hotel-casino.
It is the first major theatrical partnership for the Beatles, whose musical archive has been carefully guarded for decades, said Neil Aspinall, managing director of the band’s Apple Corps label.
The surviving members of the group, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, will help shape the production but will not appear in it. Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, respective widows of late members John Lennon and George Harrison, also will collaborate.
The deal for the joint venture was reached this week between Cirque du Soleil, Apple and the Mirage, said Bill McBeath, the hotel-casino’s president and chief operating officer. The as-yet-untitled show is expected to cost more than $100 million and should be ready in about 20 months, he said.
Aspinall said the Beatles had been approached with many theatrical proposals, but none offered the creativity and innovation for which Cirque du Soleil is regarded.
Cirque du Soleil, which is French for circus of the sun, is known for its acrobatic performances that blend athleticism with music and artistry. More than 7 million people saw its shows around the world last year.
Other locations, like London, New York and Tokyo also were considered, but none could match the massive influx of tourists in Las Vegas, which is expected to top 37 million visitors this year, Aspinall said. A Las Vegas marriage with Cirque du Soleil was “too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
Another draw was the Mirage’s commitment to building a new theater. McBeath said the facility, under construction since August, will hold about 2,000 people and offer 360-degree seating. It replaces the theater that housed German illusionists Siegfried & Roy, who performed for about 13 years before Roy Horn was nearly killed Oct. 3, 2003, by one of his tigers. Since the mauling, the Mirage has been without its signature act.
Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberte didn’t reveal much about the 90-minute Beatles show, other to say it would contain the Canadian company’s famous acrobatics and be a celebration of Beatles music.
Laliberte said he began discussing the idea about four-and-a-half years ago with George Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001. The songs to be used in the show are undecided, but Cirque du Soleil will have complete access to the Beatles’ musical archive. Other show details remained closely guarded.
The show adds another high-dollar extravaganza to bolster the city’s pitch as the entertainment capital of the world. Caesars Palace built Celine Dion a $95 million theater for her “A New Day” show, which Concerts West produced for $30 million. “The Phantom of the Opera,” one of the most successful shows in the history of Broadway, is coming to the Venetian hotel-casino in 2006; and the Tony Award-winning musical “Avenue Q” will open in September 2005 at the Wynn Las Vegas resort.
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