Cirque du Soleil's nineteenth show opened in 2006. It is the fifth of their permanent productions in Las Vegas, Nevada (at the Mirage Hotel and Casino) and their first show to combine the Jukebox Musical genre with their "house style".
To say they started at the top in terms of the song catalog to tackle is quite the understatement. This show is a collaborative effort with Apple Corps Ltd, allowing not just the use of the songs of The Beatles in a show, but the original recordings of such as remixed by Sir George Martin and his son Giles.
The characters whose onstage escapades (including more dance than usual for Cirque) are set to this music are drawn from both the songs of the Beatles and the social, political, and cultural world and time the group emerged from; the Beatles themselves are not portrayed onstage but their presence is always there. The story travels from the rubble of World War II to the height of Beatlemania, from the initial backlash to their reinvention in the age of psychedelia. Metaphorically, the group's breakup is addressed, but so is the endurance of what they created together.
This show, as with most of Cirque's Vegas productions, has not been filmed in full, though material from it was incorporated into the 2012 3-D movie Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away. There is a soundtrack album that contains the bulk of the 90-minute show's music (the only official remix of The Beatles' recordings released to date), as well as a making-of documentary, All Together Now.
Feel free to compare and contrast this show with the film Across the Universe — the 2008 Grammy Awards ceremony featured a crossover production number featuring cast members from both.
This show contains examples of:
- Abbey Road Crossing: One sequence, via film of white silhouette figures representing the Fab Four projected onto a scrim and "dialogue" assembled from old studio chatter, whimsically culminates in the original crossing.
- All There in the Manual: To cut through the layers and layers of symbolism in this show, the official website (specifically, the Director's Vision and Characters pages) and program are a huge help.
- Circus of Fear: The initial backlash against the Beatles — particularly the "bigger than Jesus" controversy in the U.S. — is depicted as this, featuring the Creepy Circus Music that is "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"...which is pushed further into darkness when it segues into a combination of "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and "Helter Skelter".
- Confetti Drop: Confetti is dropped during both the opening and closing stretches of the show. (These drops are in addition to the "poppy petals" that are sent drifting into the audience during "Hey Jude".)
- Costume Porn: 1960s pop art is brought to life and pushed even further into whimsy...
- Crosscast Role: To give her a caricatured appearance, Her Majesty is played by a man.
- The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Hey Jude".
- The Everyman: The four "Nowhere Men" who are the central onstage characters.
- The Fool: As in "on the Hill"; One of the characters, in those exact words. His description at the official website could be a paraphrase of the trope description itself: "He exudes happiness even in the darkest hours, lightening everyones spirits and showing them beauty in an absurd world."
- In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: That said, You are free to just call it LOVE for short, too. A Type 1 (Original Creator's X) example.
- Jukebox Musical: One crossbred with the circus medium, and with the original recordings used rather than live performers.
- Large Ham: Mr. Piggy — not surprising, given his name.
- In Medias Res: Ignoring the "Because" prologue, the show begins with the drum solo from "The End" which is chronologically Exactly What It Says on the Tin. On top of that the solo is played backwards for it to transition into "Get Back" but also just makes the trope extra confusing.
- Moral Guardians: Represented by Mr. Piggy (the only onstage speaking character), who looks down upon the Beatles and what they represent.
- Mushroom Samba: "Strawberry Fields Forever" is presented as this. Oh, the specific substance served up to the Nowhere Men is tea, but the metaphor is intentionally transparent (and given the context might even double as a Shout-Out to The Rutles!).
- Numerological Motif: The number in question, of course, is four. The showroom layout is similar to a theater-in-the-round, but the stage has four sides and four ground-level entrance ramps for performers. Major and minor characters that come in groups of four include the Nowhere Men, Children of Liverpool, Nurses, blackbirds, astronauts, etc.
- Retool: This show was a hit out of the gate, but there have been some tweaks made to it. A "Blackbird"-inspired comic skit in which Dr. Robert tries to get four blackbirds airborne again was widely panned, so (seemingly as soon as possible) it was dropped and replaced with a low-key transition using the actual song. A procession of characters across the stage was also added to the "Because" prologue.
- Rule of Three: Or Four in this case. The white VW Beetle from the Abbey Road cover shows up several times, and the last time it appears it hits the woman in red who represents John Lennon's mother, "kills" her and bursts apart.
- Scare Chord: The prologue ends with the closing chord of "A Day in the Life" played backwards, resulting in a buildup of noise that's punctuated with this — specifically, the opening chord of "Get Back".
- Spiritual Successor: Cirque went on to tackle Elvis Presley's work in Viva Elvis (2010) and Michael Jackson's in two different shows.
- The Trickster: The Walrus, who represents post-WWII anti-authoritarianism.
- Woman in White
- The Nurses, who (naturally) represent healing.
- The female aerialists in "Something" and "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", accentuating their ethereal beauty.
- The ballerina in "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is also beautiful, but the context of number (the dissolution of the band) gives the white a patina of lost innocence and longing.