You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


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.


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

  • Bryan Cranston First Time in Variety

    Bryan Cranston on His Early Roles, Dealing With Rejection and His 'Erasable Mind'

    Following his 2014 Tony Award for best actor as President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s play “All the Way,” Bryan Cranston is looking to add to his trophy collection this year with his performance as Howard Beale in “Network.” The deranged anchorman — who’s famously “mad as hell and not going to take this [...]

  • Ink Play West End London

    Wary Theater Rivalry Between London and New York Gives Way to a Boom in Crossovers

    Give or take a little tectonic shift, the distance between London and New York still stands at 3,465 miles. Arguably, though, the two theater capitals have never been closer. It’s not just the nine productions playing in duplicate in both locations — believed to be the most ever — with three more expected in the [...]

  • Alex Brightman Beetlejuice Broadway

    How Alex Brightman Brought a Pansexual Beetlejuice to Life on Broadway

    Alex Brightman gives the deadliest performance on Broadway — in a good way — in “Beetlejuice.” The big-budget musical adaptation of the 1988 film directed by Tim Burton has scored eight Tony nominations, including best actor. To play the frisky role, Brightman (“School of Rock”) dons Beetlejuice’s striped suit and an assortment of colorful wigs [...]

  • Santino Fontana Tootsie Broadway Illustration

    'Tootsie' Star Santino Fontana on the Challenges of His Tony-Nominated Dual Role

    Santino Fontana is doing double duty on Broadway this year. The “Tootsie” star scored his second Tony Award nomination this month for his hilarious portrayal of struggling actor Michael Dorsey and Dorothy Michaels, the female persona that Dorsey assumes to win a role in a play. The musical, based on the 1982 comedy starring Dustin [...]

  • Dear Evan Hansen

    Broadway Cast Albums Find Fresh Footing With Hip New Sounds, Viral Outreach

    Mixtapes. YouTube videos. Dedicated playlists. Ancillary products. Viral marketing. Epic chart stays. These are things you expect to hear from a record label discussing Cardi B or Beyoncé. Instead, this is the new world of a very old staple, the Broadway original cast recording. Robust stats tell the tale: Atlantic’s “Hamilton” album beat the record [...]

  • Ali Stroker Oklahoma

    Ali Stroker on 'Oklahoma!': 'This Show Doesn’t Follow the Rules and That Is So Who I Am'

    Ali Stroker is no stranger to rewriting history. With her 2015 Broadway debut in “Spring Awakening,” she became the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on the Great White Way. Three years later, she’s back onstage in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” as Ado Annie, the flirtatious local who splits her affections between a resident [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content