The Beatles take Las Vegas tonight. The only question is, will all the participants get along, or will their legendary feuds get in the way of a spectacular night?
Not only are Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr due in town tonight for the premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s “Love” at the Mirage Hotel, but so is George Harrison’s widow Olivia Harrison and son Dhani, John Lennon’s first wife Cynthia and her son Julian as well as Yoko Ono and her son Sean.
If it comes off, this would be the first-known gathering of these people anywhere at any time. And — as you may gather — this is not a happy family. Ono and McCartney barely speak, if at all. Ono and Cynthia Lennon have been enemies since Ono obstructed Julian Lennon’s access to his father’s estate for a long time.
A raft of other celebrities are scheduled to show up, too, including Blondie’s Debbie Harry (fresh from her nasty appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner), Prince, Tony Bennett and Las Vegas’ first lady from the Rat Pack days, Phyllis McGuire.
But the Cirque du Soleil show is called “Love,” as in “All You Need Is Love,” and maybe the good feelings about the show’s success, not to mention the money it will generate for the Beatles, will heal old wounds. Anything is possible here in Las Vegas, where the nighttime temperature right now is a drowsy 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Love” is unique for many reasons, not the least of which is the price tag. It cost $120 million to rebuild the Mirage Theater when Siegfried & Roy left after their tiger accident. The show itself cost $30 million, we were told yesterday, with about $15 million more in production costs. That doesn’t include the price of licensing the Beatles music and original recordings, something that had not been allowed before this production.
Previously, theater or film producers could only try to get the rights to re-record the Beatles’ music. “Love” is a first in that includes the original recordings.
For purposes of theater staging, the recordings had to be “tweaked” by their original producer, Sir George Martin, and his son, Giles. Among the records used in the 90-minute show: "Hey Jude," "Something," "Here Comes the Sun," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite," "Eleanor Rigby," "Help" and "A Hard Days’ Night."
But to make those recordings work with Martin’s approval wasn’t a simple process. He balked at some of the ideas. A reggae version of "Hey Jude" was rejected.
The egos were difficult to deal with, director Dominic Champagne told us yesterday, “but everybody was interested in the music.”
Martin played bits of what they were doing for everyone in London from time to time. ”What have you done now?” they’d ask in mock horror.
The show, says Champagne, is actually hanging on "Get Back," the first song all parties agreed would be included. And that’s kind of interesting, because “Get Back” features the late Billy Preston — who is not in the show.
“We knew we’d start with 'Get Back,' but then we had to think about what it meant,” he said. “We had to go back from there to the beginning, and then work through the Beatles’ story.”
Although some early songs are used, most of “Love,” is drawn from their later, more sophisticated works, like "Abbey Road" and "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band," Champagne said.
Meantime, how “Love” came about is a story of serendipity and good and bad luck. Apparently George Harrison — who never gets enough credit for his creative brainstorms — approached Guy Laliberte, the company’s founder, with an idea of some kind of collaboration.
When Siegfried & Roy was suddenly forced to close down, the Mirage reached out to Laliberte, who brought in the idea of a Beatles show. The project has not transformed this hotel, which had lost its trendiness. The hotel, which once sported an indoor rainforest, now seems energized as Beatlemania seeps into every area.
Originally, the plan was to use the existing theater, but then Champagne and his crew got the idea from “Get Back” to mimic the movie it appeared in, "Let it Be." Thus, the show is designed to look like the London rooftop where the final concert in "Let it Be" was performed. The theater has been reconfigured into a round, so that the audience feels like they are on other rooftops watching the concert, Champagne said.
The result is a whole new theater, and one not easily renovated again. Cirque du Soleil and the Mirage are obviously confident that have a hit on their hands.
Indeed, “Love” is the talk of Las Vegas right now.
“We think it will be here for a long time,” Champagne said yesterday.
If nothing else, it will bring the Beatles to a whole new audience. The director told us yesterday that when he started rehearsing with the cast of 63, many of them didn’t know much about the greatest rock band in history.
“They said, I know one of them is dead,” he reported. “Most of them are 22 or 23 years old. They didn’t know the songs.”
And that will change, too: Capitol is set to release a soundtrack for “Love” in November, just in time for Christmas. A new wave of Beatlemania is on its way.
Personally, I think the best thing Star Jones could do at this point is shut her yap. But what she’s done this week is emblematic of the reason why she was cut from "The View."
She’s squawked all week to anyone who’d listen about how she’d been done in by Barbara Walters. Frankly, Walters has probably “done in” lots of better, more interesting people in her day. From the beginning, Star wasn't able to sit back and appreciate her job with “The View.”
A self-proclaimed former prosecutor turned half-baked legal analyst during the O.J. Simpson trial, she rarely made sense on TV in her early days. Jones routinely defended Simpson, and made no secret of her close professional ties to Johnnie Cochran.
I used to love it when she appeared on talk shows and blithely dismissed the mountains of evidence against Simpson. During her “View” run, Jones became ever more temperamental and diva-like. The breaking point came when her wedding made it into gossip columns as Jones demanded (and got) freebies galore.
She cannot possibly defend herself by using Rosie O'Donnell as a foil, either. O’Donnell said from the start that she would appear on the show with Jones.
Not only that: O’Donnell was hired by Walters, as this column reported, after Walters attended a screening of O’Donnell’s HBO special about her family cruises and gay adoption. Walters was moved to tears and offered Rosie the job on the spot. None of it had anything to do with Jones; it was a rare emotional reaction for Walters.
Star has only herself to blame for this mess. Maybe she’ll learn something from it. But then again, it’s quite possible she won’t…
Box office watchers will have their eyes glued to computers all weekend as “Superman Returns” makes its debut. So far the results have been middling: Wednesday night’s $17 million take was only so-so.
By tomorrow morning, though, the verdict on "Superman Returns" will be solid one way or another.
What should you do? The first hour alone is reason enough to go see it. Bryan Singer’s done a wonderful job with Superman/Clark Kent’s initial return to Kansas from outer space. And Eva Marie Saint is worth the price of any ticket…