×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Iris

Lavish and intimate, imbued with genuine love of cinema, and powered by a hard-driving Danny Elfman score, "Iris" instantly vaults onto the list of must-see Hollywood attractions.

The Academy Awards have a rival for pride of place at the Kodak Theater, where “Iris,” Cirque du Soleil’s movie-inspired spectacular, should be sitting down comfortably for the foreseeable future. Both lavish and intimate, imbued with genuine love of cinema and powered by a hard-driving Danny Elfman score, “Iris” instantly vaults onto the list of must-see Hollywood attractions.

The usual Cirque tropes, summed up by the overhead motto “In Motion We Trust,” are very much in evidence in the thrilling trapeze and bungee artistry, and the bone-aching contortionists, hoop riders and gymnasts.

Thanks to Elfman, the accompaniment is much less New Age-y than usual, more percussive and flavored with cinemaccents inspired by Bernard Herrmann, Miklos Rozsa and Leonard Bernstein, not to mention the composer’s own “Edward Scissorhands.”

There’s also the usual Cirque linking thread of journey or search, this time a porkpie-hatted tumbler-composer called “Buster” (Raphael Cruz) who literally falls heels over head for aspiring starlet “Scarlett,” incarnated by Alice Dufour and Olga Pikhienko as unpossessable floating angel.

But the true romance of “Iris” is to be found in the interplay between live performance and the camera, a reflection of our best movie memories when we’ve gazed up spellbound while scarfing down popcorn.

Writer-helmer Philippe Decoufle pays explicit tribute to the bygone past by having designer Jean Rabasse dress the Kodak as a 1900s Grand Guignol cabaret, with ubiquitous moving props from Anne-Seguin Poirier dating back to the Griffith and Melies days.

Most of act one is played against screens offering interesting shadow-puppet counterpoint. A highlight is seeing the antics of four leaping acrobats picked up frame-by-frame behind them, like an early Edison motion-capture experiment.

Movie iconography abounds. Allusions from “Royal Wedding” and “Psycho” to “The Lion King” and “WALL-E” are all subtly inserted, affectionate rather than tacky.

Cirque’s patented distracting, head-scratching Dada imagery – the guy sporting a giant whip as a hat, for instance – is kept to a minimum. Better still, the clowns of “Iris” are actually funny, both in their audience preshow byplay (gals treading the aisles in spinning Kinetoscope tutus, or with little movies projected on their torsos) and during an Oscar-ceremony spoof, featuring an audience volunteer as special guest recipient.

Act two really gets down to business – the contempo movie business, that is, on a sound stage set up as Skull Island in “King Kong.” Threescore dancers, wardrobe workers, sweepers, grips doing flips off teeter-totters and trapeze artists act out a studio head’s wet dream of how busy his employees ought to be on the lot.

The showpiece marries circus and cinema in a tribute to film noir, opening with sliding panels and elevators offering peeks into the urban jungle (paging “Rear Window”). Then comes an extended Jerome Robbins-inspired, four-stories-high chase sequence for which the rooftops have been replaced by trampolines. Naturally there’s a happy ending as intrepid Buster gets the girl.

If you have enough moxie left for the glittering finale, here’s a movie cliche to remember: Keep watching the skies.

Iris

Kodak Theater, Los Angeles; 2500 seats; $133 top

Production: A Cirque du Soleil presentation of a show in two acts written and directed by Philippe Decoufle. Artistic guides, Guy Laliberte and Gilles Ste-Croix. Director of creation, Jean-Francois Bouchard. Music, Danny Elfman. Choreography, Daphne Mauger.

Creative: Sets, Jean Rabasse; costumes, Philippe Guillotel; lighting, Patrice Besombes; projections, Olivier Simola, Christopher Waksmann; sound, Francois Bergeron; props, Anne-Seguin Poirier; acrobatic performance designers, Shana Carroll, Boris Verkhovsky, Pierre Masse. Opened, reviewed Sept. 25, 2011. Running time: 2 HRS, 20 MIN.

More Legit

  • Tootsie review

    Broadway Review: 'Tootsie'

    The new Broadway adaptation of “Tootsie” is old-fashioned and proud of it — and it’s a surefire crowd-pleaser, in this musical spin on the 1982 film comedy with Santino Fontana in the Dustin Hoffman role. Robert Horn (book) and Tony-winner David Yazbek (score) have a high old time poking fun at theatrical rituals — the [...]

  • Kelli O'Hara

    Listen: How Kelli O'Hara Brings #MeToo to 'Kiss Me, Kate'

    “Kiss Me, Kate” is one of the best-known titles in musical theater. But in this day and age, the “Taming of the Shrew”-inspired comedy’s depiction of the gender dynamic seems downright, well, problematic. Listen to this week’s podcast below: Kelli O’Hara is well aware of that, and so were her collaborators on the Roundabout Theatre [...]

  • All My Sons review

    Broadway Review: 'All My Sons' With Annette Bening

    Don’t be fooled by the placid backyard setting, neighborly small talk and father-son joviality at the start of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s blistering revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” starring Annette Bening and Tracy Letts. There are plenty of secrets, resentments and disillusionments ahead, poised to rip this sunny Middle Americana facade to shreds. [...]

  • A still image from The Seven

    How Magic Leap, Video Games Are Defining Future of Royal Shakespeare Company

    At the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford upon Avon, Sarah Ellis has the difficult job of figuring out where theater of the 1500s fits into the 21st century. As Director of Digital Development, a title which might seem out of place in an industry ruled by live, human performances, Ellis represents a recent seachange on [...]

  • Gary review

    Broadway Review: 'Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus' With Nathan Lane

    Nathan Lane and Kristine Nielsen, two of the funniest people on the face of the earth, play street cleaners tasked with carting away the dead after the civil wars that brought down the Roman Empire. Well, a job’s a job, and Gary (Lane) and Janice (Nielsen) go about their disgusting work without complaint. “Long story [...]

  • Laurie Metcalf, John Lithgow'Hillary and Clinton'

    Why John Lithgow Worried About Starring in Broadway's 'Hillary and Clinton'

    When Lucas Hnath first conceived of “Hillary and Clinton” in 2008, he was writing for and about a very different America. Now, a total reimagining of the show has made its way to Broadway with Laurie Metcalf and John Lithgow in the titular roles. At the opening on Thursday night, the cast and creatives talked [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content