R.U.N: Cirque du Soleil, without the acrobatics

Can you take the circus out of the Cirque du Soleil and still have a show that can wow them on the Strip in Las Vegas?

That’s the multi-million-dollar question hovering around R.U.N. which is being billed as “the first live-action thriller by Cirque du Soleil.”

On Tuesday, at the Cirque’s sprawling St. Michel headquarters, the creative team behind the show — which is set to premiere at the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Vegas on Oct. 24 — tried to describe what will be the very first Cirque show with absolutely no acrobatic acts in it.

“I love the fact that I’m doing a Cirque du Soleil show without any circus acrobats,” said R.U.N. director Michael Schwandt. “I think that was a tall order but it’s a challenge I’m readily welcoming.”

Schwandt is the creative director of the Fox singing competition show The Masked Singer and has collaborated with Avril Lavigne, Katy Perry and Kendrick Lamar.

“What we’ve been discovering is that Cirque du Soleil can create a different genre of live entertainment perhaps than what they’ve created in the past. It can have other disciplines in it that make up the show, different skill sets other than circus performance. …

“The skill sets as an individual skill set are maybe a little less impressive. … They don’t make up an act. … We don’t want to have five minutes of just this. So it was — ‘let’s approach this show in a completely different way.’

“So we started looking at chapters. … It creates a world that’s still awe-inspiring, that still makes you go ‘wow’ but you’re not looking at one type of an act.”

One of the main things replacing the acrobatic acts are thriller-movie-style stunts. So there will be, according to Schwandt, “stunt combat, stunt fighting, weapons works, high falls, fire.

“We have a lot of motorcycles. We have both street motorcycles, street stunt riding, and trial and FMX riding, which are the big jumps and the big ramps. We have horror stunts.”

There is also a stronger narrative than most previous Cirque shows, which have tended to be built around rather vague concepts and rarely feature any known language. This time, there will be voice-over narration in English and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez — whose credits include the Spy Kids and Sin City films — is currently at work developing a screenplay for the show.

The story begins at a remote chapel in the desert. A gangland wedding is interrupted by a commotion and one man runs from the chapel being chased by others. Next up is a huge conflict between two rival gangs. That’s when we meet “The Groom”, “The Professional”, “The Torturer” and “The Bride.”

“We wanted to leave less room for interpretation,” Schwandt said.

“The idea is that you would see the show as if you were leafing through a graphic novel or looking at an action film,” said creative director Stefan Miljevic, who had the same position on the Cirque ice show Crystal. “The inspiration came from films like 300 and Sin City.”

Miljevic is a filmmaker — his credits include the 2008 documentary Le lendemain de la fête and the 2012 feature Amsterdam — and so he was excited to work on a Cirque project that is so cinematic.

Jean Frenette is a veteran stunt co-ordinator who has worked on a slew of Canadian and Hollywood films but he said it’s been a very different experience working as action sequence director on a live Cirque show.

“It’s extremely different,” Frenette said. “Working in film or TV, you have one take, two takes, three takes, four takes. This world, you get one take.

“The challenge is to deliver the same visual impact but with a 180-degree point of view, which is very hard. To sell any action that we do (and make it) believable. We don’t have two takes and … there’s no multiple camera filming. So it makes it very hard. You really have to work on the choreography and the positioning of the people on stage. How are we going to do all that movement or hits or kicks or punches or whatever we do?”

When the concept of the show was first announced a couple of months back, Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre said the notion was to create a show that is completely different from the many other Las Vegas Cirque offerings, a rich eclectic menu that includes The Beatles Love, Michael Jackson One, O, Ka, Zumanity and Mystère.

{ SOURCE: Montreal Gazette }