The Beatles LOVE cast and crew prepare for final bow

After nearly two decades on the Las Vegas Strip, the cast and crew from The Beatles LOVE by Cirque du Soleil are getting ready for their final bow.

The show’s last public performance will be on July 6 and a final private performance is set for July 7, which is Ringo Starr’s 84th birthday. There are still tickets available, which you can find here.

The show is closing due to The Mirage undergoing construction and renovations over the next three years as the property transforms into the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Guitar Hotel Las Vegas.

How did we get here?

The idea for the show actually came from former Beatle George Harrison, who became friends with Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Lalibertè. The two met because of their love of Formula 1 racing.

Serious discussions about a Cirque show featuring Beatles music began around 2000.

“I was really involved in the beginning because I nurtured and developed that project with George,” Lalibertè said in All Together Now, a Cirque du Soleil documentary about the creation of the show, which was released in 2008. “For him, this project was not only doing a show. It was an opportunity to bring the Beatles members, who were alive, together to work on a creative project again.”

Harrison sadly passed away in 2001 but everyone involved wanted to see the project through in his honor. Cirque du Soleil, MGM Mirage, and Apple Corps Ltd., which represents The Beatles, reached an agreement and prep work began.

“I was give a lot of freedom to write and direct this show by the Beatles and I really appreciated that,” director and writer Dominic Champagne said in 2006. “Knowing that the balance between them is a very fragile one.”

That being said, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison, and Yoko Ono all had input in the show and shared their thoughts throughout the process.

After five months of staging in Montreal, Canada, the LOVE team set up production in Las Vegas and officially raised the curtain on June 30, 2006.

According to Bobby Baldwin, the former President and CEO of Mirage Resorts, the show wasn’t guaranteed to be a success.

“Well, you would think that you couldn’t go wrong with Cirque du Soleil and The Beatles but risk in the entertainment business is just about as scary as risk in a poker game,” Baldwin said in 2008. “There are no sure bets.”

At the time, Baldwin estimated the aggregated investment in The Beatles LOVE was about $180 million.

That risk paid off and here we are 18 years later. Cast and crew, like props technician Erica Anderson, remember the early days of the show and have seen the show evolve and change over the years.

“My favorite part of the show would have to be Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite! because it has changed. We have gone through many formulations of that act and each time, there’s just so much going on and you’re like that’s a really cool element and then, you twisted it and you’re like that’s cooler than before,” Anderson said. “We have super fans that come back 30 to 40 times and every time they come back, they see something new and they’re like oh. I never noticed that before. It’s really fun if it’s your first time, your second time, or your 50th time to maybe see something different.”

In addition to over 11 million guests seeing the show, over 500 celebrities have seen the show. According to Cirque du Soleil, just a few of those famous faces include: Eddie Murphy, Prince, Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Shania Twain, Shaquille O’Neal, and Celine Dion.

Dion was one of the most recent guests and dancer Valerie Zarkowski said it was amazing getting to meet her.

“Knowing that she had a show, herself, on the Strip and she’s a singer and she’s an artist and she’s a performer and she came to talk to us, she was so very moving,” Zarkowski said. “She knew what we were going through, the happy moments of just trying to take everything in, every moment, and just letting it go because it’s what we’re having to do. She’s amazing.”

You might even bump into a former Beatle. Olivia Harrison saw the show this week, Starr saw the show last month, and McCartney made an unexpected visit last October.

“He showed up at the theater unannounced. He was right outside our stage door and that’s where we all enter. He couldn’t get in because he hadn’t told anyone he was coming so I let him in. I was like I’ll walk you to whatever meeting you have and he said I don’t have a meeting. I’m just here to say hi,” acrobat Sasha Harrington said. “I said to who? He said nobody in particular. Just whoever is here. I was like well, it’s super early so nobody’s really here yet. He was just like I’ll walk around and say hi. We walked around and went to the stage. He was like tell everyone I said hi. I said no one’s going to believe me and he was like well, let’s take a picture ….. I emailed our company manager like Paul McCartney was here. I hope that’s cool.”

Harrington grew up in Southern California and was a gymnast before going to circus school in San Francisco.

In LOVE, she performs as Julia, the character that represents John Lennon’s mother.

“I was a big Beatles fan, especially in high school. A Day In The Life was my favorite song and just by coincidence, that ended up being the song that I do in my act too,” Harrington said. “I think the most difficult part of my job is delivering a really connected, present performance for every single new audience that’s there to watch the show, to make sure that we’re really telling the story and telling it with as much feeling and as much authenticity as we can.”

Eagle-eyed fans can spot performers pop up in different roles or multiple numbers throughout the show.

“There’s a lot of acrobatic performances but even if there’s acrobats on the stage, there’s also dancers,” Zarkowski explained. “I could be doing up to five numbers a night. But in total, we have about eight to 10 numbers that we do perform in the show.”

So what makes the show so special and memorable for people?

The cast, crew, and creators all have the same answer: the music.

“I knew of The Beatles but I didn’t know the songs and I couldn’t feel the songs the way I feel them now, after performing them for two and a half years,” Zarkowski said. “I will never hear a Beatles song again and just not be able to feel it so deeply because now, we hear it every night and we perform it so it’s physical. Once we don’t do it anymore, it’s definitely still going to bring back those feelings of feeling the actual music, almost like it’s running through our veins.”

The music for the show came to life through the father-son duo of George Martin and Giles Martin, which Giles said “was terrifying.”

“When I started doing it, I was full of fear and loathing and dread and thinking God, I’ve been given a Beatles tape and they want me to do something to it and people are going to hate me for this,” Giles said in 2008.

“There is some Beatles fan somewhere that says they shouldn’t do that,” George said in 2008. “They should leave the masters as they know them but we’re embarking in a new direction here.”

It’s something Starr agreed with and even said they should have done more.

“[George] knew where the bodies were hidden in those tapes,” Starr said, explaining that George knew where to find specific pieces of songs and knew how to put them together in a new, unexpected way. “They mixed 15 minutes of music at first and we went to hear it and I was blown away and kept saying make it crazier. You can go broader, as far as I was concerned. Not just to go broad but because it was so cool.”

Music from The Beatles LOVE includes elements from 130 individual, commercially-released and demo recordings of The Beatles. In 2008, the show’s album won two GRAMMY awards: Best Compilation Soundtrack Album and Best Surround Sound Album. The album was also George Martin’s final album as a producer. He passed away in 2016.

What’s next?

LOVE closing means the end for some performers like Zarkowski, who said she is leaving the stage, after performing in several shows over the past 17 years, in order to focus on being a mom.

“I’ve had a really long career and I cannot believe that I have been a part of Cirque, The Beatles LOVE, and I feel like this is how I want it to end. It’s a bittersweet feeling but I cannot wait to just have that last performance with everybody on stage, feel all the feelings, and just see everybody move on and continue to have a great career,” Zarkowski said. “I feel like I’ve just done it all and I want to end on the biggest stage that I could and this is just the place to be.”

For others, LOVE closing means a new beginning.

“There’s always going to be opportunities in the future and a lot of us will go on together to the next project, the next show,” Anderson said. “I don’t look at it as losing our family but as making more opportunities in the future to continue our journey together.”

{ SOURCE: KTNV Las Vegas }