Cirque du Soleil's new 'Iris' blooms in Hollywood

Live, movie-themed, multimedia show melds Cirque's trademark blend of dance and acrobatics with silver-screen themes and cutting-edge onstage visuals.

Iris poster
Cirque du Soleil

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--The cast of "Iris," Cirque du Soleil's new movie-themed show at the famed Kodak Theatre here, took the stage Thursday to preview the upcoming production's mix of elite acrobatics, audio visual technology, and live music and dance for a select crew of press, corporate reps, and local government officials.

Cirque artists performed 20 minutes of the massive stage production--Cirque's 27th to date--for the eager crowd. When "Iris" opens later this year, it will settle into the Kodak Theatre as a permanent attraction, stepping aside whenever the Academy Awards or other shows require the space.

After opening comments from Cirque executives, the audience enjoyed what could prove to be the opening of the finished production. Performers filled the stage in mini-vignettes highlighting the invention of cinema and the earliest days of Hollywood. A human kinescope danced amid aspiring starlets, blue-collar crew workers, silent film stars, and well-dressed executives.

Technological magic merged with the human elements. Independently animated and radio-controlled "creatures" like studio lights and cameras danced with their human counterparts. The opening number climaxed with an aerial act of two male rigging dancers literally flying about and bouncing off the walls of the Kodak Theatre.

Imagery captured during the invention of black-and-white moving pictures played in loops projected around the stage set against the backdrop of a soundtrack by film composer Danny Elfman. The final clip, a classic gangster mini-movie, gave way to Cirque's high-tech visual trickery when its characters stepped "through" the screen and emerged onstage. A cops-and-robbers chase atop the rooftops of New York along a row of trampolines topped off the show.

The lighting for "Iris" relies on modern techniques of projecting imagery against translucent fabrics and periodically mixing stark light and shadows to transform the stage area into the illusion of a two-dimensional moving image. The exact tools being used are top secret and likely will remain so as the show rolls out, but the sheer size of the set pieces and the proliferation of technology hints at the massive amount of machinery hidden backstage.

While most of the production remains under wraps, the short demo already showed that the same massive, animated stage and set piece movements from former Cirque shows are once again in play. Using automated positioning systems, the set pieces for the large installed Cirque shows are monitored and will cease moving immediately if the piece is off by as little as millimeters. Such systems protect the Cirque performers, no matter how many tons a set piece weighs.

Written and directed by Philippe DeCoufle, the show opens in Hollywood on July 21 with tickets on sale now.

Iris cast
The cast of Cirque du Solieil's new Hollywood show, Iris, gather onstage. John Scott Lewinski/CNET

About the author

Crave freelancer John Scott Lewinski covers tech, cars, and entertainment out of Los Angeles. As a journalist, he's traveled from Daytona Beach to Cape Town, writing for more than 30 national magazines. He's also a very amateur boxer known for his surprising lack of speed and ability to absorb punishment. E-mail John.

 

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