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Backstage birthday glimpse at Cirque's 'Love' (photos)

For the fifth anniversary of "Love," Cirque du Soleil's celebration of The Beatles, CNET got a special peek backstage in Las Vegas at the complex technology and engineering that makes the show possible.

John Lewinski
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.
John Lewinski
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Lighting room that once housed tigers

LAS VEGAS--On its fifth anniversary, Cirque du Soleil's "Love" invited CNET to once again explore its intricate backstage world at The Mirage in Las Vegas from the bowels of the theater to the rigging in the rafters. The "Love" theater is built into the space that was once home to the famed Siegfried and Roy. The show's offices are installed in what was the performers' residence.

The lighting room housing these high-tech lights--capable of projecting beams in any color and multiple shapes--takes up the space that once was home to Siegfried and Roy tiger cages. It took some work to get the smell of the huge beasts out of space before Cirque took possession for its celebration of The Beatles.

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Stage-lifting system

Nine lifts to raise and lower artists and set elements in and out of the performance space. This motor-driven, rack-and-pinion lift raises a center stage segment of Love weighing about 22,000 pounds. Engineers had to dig 32 feet down into the desert ground to install it. It provides a force of 150 pounds per square foot and can raise the huge stage at a speed of a foot per second.
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"Bricks" of London's rooftoops

To simulate the London Blitz of World War II that coincided with the earliest days of The Beatles' lives, elevated stage segments are covered with more than 2,000 foam bricks built into chimneys and facades. Performers tear the bricks apart during the scene. Once the set piece is removed from the stage, crew members rebuild the cityscape in 15 minutes.
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Bubble piano

During the show, this fiberglass piano is filled with a soapy formula that allows performers a chance to send "dancing bubbles" up and around the theater. To make the number possible in Las Vegas' dry desert air, the "Love" theater employs a ventilation system that can change the density and flow of air inside the theater specifically for the bubbles.
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Rollerblade stage

Love employs a special, four-man rollerblade act. This huge skating ramp is elevated and lowered on the show's main stage lift.
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Rigging harnesses

To guarantee performers' safety, participants in "Love" aerial acts wear specially designed harnesses. Each unit is fitted specifically for the performer in question and connects into the riggings above the stage.
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Props backstage

There are more than 600 costume elements, stage, and acrobatic props in "Love." They include luminscent umbrellas and two 32-foot-long remotely manipulated, motor-driven trains adorned with flickering candles.
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Mobile elements backstage

"Love" features constant movement from one end of the stage to the other. Some are independently driven, like this specially adapted Volkswagen Bug from the "Drive My Car" number. Others are remotely controlled.
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Artist training facilities backstage

All Cirque shows in Las Vegas provide training and practice facilities backstage at their theaters. Here at "Love," gymnasts, skaters and other artists can rehearse.
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Riggings above the stage

Unseen by the audience members below, an elaborate network of gratings and riggings fill the upper levels of the theater. This space goes dark, with only blue lights aiding the artists and crew.
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LIquid nitrogen mists the stage

Seen here from above, an extended network of pipes built into the "Love" theater carries and releases liquid nitrogen into the atmosphere to create mist on demand.
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Overhead trolleys

Eight automated tracks and trolleys simultaneously move 24 props, set elements, or performers from the riggings above the stage during the show. They provide the production with 140 different ways to put a performer or set piece into the air.

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