Lots of fun at tonight’s world premiere of “Iris,” (pronounced à la française, “Eer-ese“), Cirque du Soleil’s hugely entertaining permanent show at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. Loosely inspired by the technology and creative spirit of early cinema (French civilization still claims a huge stake), the pageant’s a joy: sweet, humane, funny, spectacular, and great-looking.
Our close-to-stage seats put us in the firing line of a barrage of smiling, well-rehearsed, incredibly handsome and beautifully dressed performers. Beyond their clever design, the costumes fit so well; memorable are the ladies’ aquamarine gowns, quel couleur, and the natty, sequined unitards that show up toward show’s end. Heck, some of the girls even have sequins in their lipstick. Everywhere you look, something witty to watch.
The cast includes an entire Chinese village of acrobats who bend, not like pretzels — because pretzels break. Instead, Danny Elfman’s bubbly, yet epic, musical score provides the strong backbone of “Iris.” The music, half recorded (live musicians roost in the Kodak boxes), is tinged with sweetness and I think it’s nice that he quotes from Leonard Bernstein. “Iris’s” pleasing tone seems to stem rather genuinely from concern for the audience; this shouldn’t be noteworthy, but it is, right down to the final mise-en-scene in which trapeze artists zoom around in the Kodak Theatre rafters (do shopping mall theaters have ‘em? rafters?). This thoughtful staging gives the peanut gallery a good look-see.
Some sequences are messy. The comedy send-up on the Academy Awards, an easy target given that Cirque occupies the house that Oscar built, is an example. If “Iris” is truly meant to be about film history, then keep the humor steeped in film history, not cross dressing, viz., lose the juvenile fruit routine. Why not engage L.A. talent, like our film history funny man, Michael Schlesinger, as a consultant? Schlesinger could sort this out and lend local authenticity, which the show lacks.
Speaking of the audience pleasing, thanks for letting us schmooze, throw back a whiskey, and visit the toilette during the intermission, an old-fashioned theater convention that has lately gone missing. Bring back intermissions.
Bienvenue à Los Angeles, Cirque du Soleil.