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By Chad Emerson
Since its foundation in 1984, over 100 million people have seen a Cirque du Soleil show; in 2011 alone, close to 15 million people will be lucky enough to be thrilled by the unique mix of music, dance, drama, acrobatics and sophisticated theatre. Viva ELVIS is a resident show at ARIA Resort & Casino™, Las Vegas. Chad Emerson talks to Artistic Director Gene Lubas about the challenges of bringing the music and story of Elvis Presley to the stage.
Chad Emerson: Cirque du Soleil previously developed an amazing show that was inspired by music from the Beatles. Share with us how the decision to now develop a show based on music from Elvis came about.
Gene Lubas: A few years back Cirque du Soleil partnered with CKX and Elvis Presley Enterprises to do a true and honest celebration of the Elvis Presley legend and his music with a quality treatment never seen before in the world.
As many know, a lot of Elvis tribute shows tend to not be of high quality. Cirque knew they could give The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll the royal treatment his story and music would deserve by using the latest in theatre technology, music technology, variations in dance and multi media.
Emerson: Explain the type of stage that is used for the show and why you elected to use that stage type.
Lubas: The height of Elvis’ Vegas popularity was the 1970’s. He performed at the International Hotel (currently the Hilton). Its theatre design was the traditional proscenium stage. The rock and roll concert venues of the 1970s were not the scenic monsters they are of the 21st century. Wood was a very popular interior decorating treatment of that time period that is used in our theatre as well as the banquette style of seating in showrooms was incorporated. We were aiming to place the show in a rock and roll concert venue in the style of how Elvis’ shows were directed when he performed in Vegas in the 1970s.
Emerson: In terms of acrobatics and other performance elements, what are some of the features that are unique to this show?
Lubas: Our show provides the audience with a 21st century take on Elvis’ music and life. The orchestrations of his songs, using his voice and how the music is presented is a completely different take than watching an Elvis tribute artist show. Our production rocks through several decades of Elvis history using dance, acrobatics and multi media mixed with Cirque magic unlike anything on the Vegas Strip.
Emerson: Creatively, what was the most challenging part of developing this show?
Lubas: At Cirque we have expectations from our fans. However, we didn’t want to simply do a “Cirque show” to Elvis music. As each of our shows are completely different from one another our goal is to entertain and satisfy the public. We wanted to create something memorable, fun and most of all true to Elvis, his story, his memory and his music and at the same time being entertaining and allowing the public to have a fantastic evening of entertainment.
Emerson: Finally, from a technical perspective, what are some of the innovations that this production brings to the Cirque roster of shows?
Lubas: We have one of North America’s largest stages with 17 separate lifts in the stage floor as well as the versatility of the height and depth of the stage space (we utilize a trolley system overhead of the stage surface whereby we can fly and spin artists and scenic elements.) By these technological marvels and other secrets we are able to bring Cirque magic into the production by creating our interpretation of the story of Elvis Presley and our interpretation of the meaning of his music and the effect it had, and still has, on the world.
All images: Kind courtesy Cirque du Soleil