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Another Decade Of "Love": Beatles' Cirque Show Gets Refresh

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Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil's production, "The Beatles Love," celebrates its tenth anniversary at the Mirage hotel-casino Thursday.

In attendance? Sir Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison.

The celebratory performance introduces updates to the performance and to the show's soundtrack.

Those updates have been two years in the making, and they led Robin Leach to describe the new production as "a wondrous and emotional experience that lasts for days."

Giles Martin is Love's musical director.

He's the son of longtime Beatles producer George Martin, and he has overseen the remixing process for "Love" from the beginning, earning him two Grammy Awards and critical praise.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

Whose idea was it to refresh the show?

About two years ago, we looked at the show and we said, 'It looks like it's getting old.' The funny thing about the Beatles' music is it never gets old -- and we thought that we weren't doing the Beatles justice. 

Dominic [Champagne, the show's director] and I went to see the show with the view of let's pretend we really, really don't like this show. Let's pretend we hate everything about it. And write a list of what we don't like. 

We started from there. 

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What were some of the things on your list?

For instance, the song "Yesterday" was almost a transition piece. We were relying too heavily on the music and not enough on stage. We thought to ourselves, 'The song deserves more.' 

We have a beautiful trapeze act. It was a song that almost passed you by in the show and now it almost gets a standing ovation every time it's played.

The song "I am the Walrus" -- we thought we weren't doing the song justice in the show and we decided to replace it with "Twist and Shout," just to give more energy, which was a big decision to make.

We changed musical numbers as well. 

Overall, we just thought the show should be more vibrant, more colorful. We installed 23 projectors and now have floor projection on the stage. And it is a completely renewed and refreshed experience. But it still retains the heart of the show.

How much input did you get from Cirque, MGM and The Beatles compared to when you first put it together 10 years ago?

When we were making the show 10 years ago, it was a bit like a first date between Cirque, MGM and the Beatles. And no one was quite sure how the relationship was going to go. 

We're 10 years on now and there is a much smoother transition now. And conversations take place much quicker. One of the the things we wanted to do was make the show more Beatles. The Beatles themselves were slightly slow in coming forward with opening access to their huge vaults of digital images and library, which they aren't now because they believe wholeheartedly in the show.

When you opened the Beatles' vault, did you find anything that surprised you?

There was a bit after "Yesterday" that I thought, 'I never liked this transition.' I found an outtake of "She's Leaving Home" -- which is on "Sgt. Pepper" -- the strings from that. I got them to soar as the couple go up in the theater and thought to myself, their music is so beautiful and so varied -- there are very few bands you could do this with. There are very few bands were you could get a screaming guitar from "Helter Skelter" or a string quartet from "Yesterday." There is such variance.  

When you go back to it, you realize the depth that's there is just extraordinary. 

How did you take those old cans of tape and turn them into something you could use to create the sound track?

You put [the tapes] on the machine and the bizarre thing they don't sound crackly or full of hiss. They sound actually fresh and they're incredibly good quality. 

We take the tape and we put it onto [...] a computer system where I can manipulate it. 

I remember Olivia Harrison when I was doing the show the first time around she came in and I was working on "Something," a George Harrison song, and she said 'My God! What have you done? The mix sounds great!' And I went, 'I've done nothing!' I put the tape on the machine and put it into the computer.

One of the things I decided to make from this refresh is we actually re-imported all of the music from the original source and I rebuilt the entire show from the ground up. 

With all the material you had to work with, how did you decide what to use and how to mix it together?

It takes a lot of thought.

For instance, we have "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" in the show. And I said to Dominic the director, 'Listen, I think I can create a diamond sky by chopping up the keyboard from "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and creating little shiny notes that glimmer. Then we can light them and create an introduction and we did that.

You have to live in your own world and know the music. You just have to try stuff. Anything with art, you have to realize that you're going to do more bad stuff than good stuff and just stick at it. Then eventually you'll come up with something good.

We you ever worried that people would see your remixing of Beatles music as blasphemy? 

Of course! I'm still surprised I got away with it. 

I said to Neil Aspinall, who was the head of Apple [Records] and I said to my dad, 'Listen, I think I can create a show [...] by chopping up the tapes and Neil Aspinall said, 'Okay, you have three months and I'm not paying you.'  

I came home with a demo and played it for my dad, and we played it for Paul and Ringo, and then Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono. 

I really believe that if someone would have told me that the son of George Martin would go into Abbey Road and chop up the Beatles' tapes to create show in Vegas, I would have thought that sounds like a terrible idea!

Would this album be made without marrying it to the Cirque du Soleil show?

I did plan the music so we could do the show with Cirque. They were the creative drive behind it. 

I never thought of this as an album at all. I love that people love it, but to experience it you have to come to Vegas and you have to come to see the show. 

I was back in [Las Vegas] 10 days ago and I sat in the theater. I've listened to this more than most. Just to be there and seat in the chair and have this music surround you [...] is extraordinary. 

The way we made the show is one inspires the other. You have to have empathy to make it work. If you're an audience member, we want to make sure that you're listening and looking and feeling, and being part of this amazing production & being moved by it. And to do that you have to have some sort of empathy and synergy between the music and the action. 

From the archive: 'Love' Brings Beatles And Cirque Du Soleil Together

Guests

Giles Martin, musical director, "The Beatles Love"