The game at Cirque du Soleil has always been to find new and different ways to bookend the acrobats we all came here to see, and the latest strategy at their soon-to-open resident show at the Kodak Theatre is to swath the circus in cinema.
That makes the cinema-entrenched (and Los Angeles-entrenched) Danny Elfman seem like a natural choice to score Cirque du Soleil's upcoming movie-themed show at Hollywood and Highland's Kodak Theatre. Elfman long ago proved that he can bring some serious circus music game, way back with Pee Wee's Big Adventure, and of course, Big Top Pee Wee.
Speaking to L.A. Weekly, Elfman said the process of scoring a live show differed markedly from the process of scoring a film.
"I'm not sure what to compare it to. In a weird way, it's somewhere between the process of what I did writing for Twyla, the ballet, and scoring a film and writing for my old theater group all kind of at the same time. It's a mix of processes. It's about four times the amount of time and work of doing a film, and it's just very different. It's constantly changing because it's a live show."
Elfman said that, along with the development of the show itself, his music was in constant evolution. "It's not like a movie, there's not a script with a story. This is like a collection of odd images which forms during the process of doing it. My process has to be fluid just like theirs. You just have to be very liquid and go with that."
Titled Iris: A Journey Through The World Of Cinema, the Cirque's first permanent show in Los Angeles has some visual style cues that come dangerously close to trite and hackneyed Universal Studios Tour-style depictions of "movie magic" (Charlie Chaplin? Check. Director yelling "cut" into cone-shaped megaphone? Check. Busty blonde ingénue? Check), and the standard Cirque du Soleil tropes such as the bewildered, wide-eyed, in-over-his-head character that stumbles awestruck through the action as a stand-in for the audience. But it's tough to feel jaded while watching gravity- and/or death-defying acrobats flip and fly onstage and overhead.
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One of the show's setpieces is a cops and robbers on trampolines number in which Elfman's score evokes Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story "Dance At The Gym" music. If only the Sharks and the Jets could have bounced so high.
Elfman also provided a dreamy soundtrack to accompany a pleasantly homoerotic aerial routine in which two hunky men suspended in the air on cords flew towards and away from each other again and again, folding, wrapping and spinning their muscled bodies around one another like airborne eels, making up for all of that hot imaginary circus sex that Zumanity promised but failed to deliver. More please.
Cirque du Soleil's PR team wants to make sure you never, never forget that Iris: A Journey Through the World of Cinema, has French origins, even going so far as to kill twice as many trees just to make sure the Los Angeles-based media peeps assembled at a press preview yesterday would have a French-language version of the Iris press release, just in case la version anglaise c'est trop difficile à comprendre.
And in case you were going to go and embarrass yourself by pronouncing "Iris" like a gauche Yank, don't. It's not "eye-riss." It's the way more sophistiqué and Frenchyfied "EEE-rhEEz," you porc américain.