Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cirque Peeps Discover The Friesster

Many of you who read this blog do not listen to the podcast. That's understandable; they are two different disciplines, two different means of taking in information and entertainment. That said, you're missing something. How much became clear when Fascination!, the Web's central repository for all things Cirque du Soleil, did the laborious work of listening to all of our Cirque-related podcast episodes and cataloging them in a feature. It's quite an effort but I can't find it anywhere on the Web except in the email blast that I get from Fascination!, so I thought I'd reprint it here:

Cirque in Your Ear

Las Vegas, Nevada-based Steve Friess is a freelance writer who writes
for a number of major publications. He blogs about Las Vegas on a
regular basis at VegasHappensHere.Com. He also
produces two podcasts, The Petcast (focusing on pets), and The Strip
with husband Miles Smith which focuses on Las Vegas
happenings. Archives of the podcast can be found at
(You can also subscribe to the
podcast on iTunes.)

The podcasts follow a standard format; "Vegas hot topics" between
Steve and Miles at the beginning with the interview in the middle.
The beginning banter can take awhile to get through but it's worth it.
Friess' interview style is that of an interested conversationalist,
who always does his homework and asks interesting questions of his
subjects. The candid answers he gets to some tougher-than-usual questions can be fun to hear. Many of his interviews form the basis of articles Fress later writes (and are referenced in show notes below each show.) Note that some of the podcasts contain explicit language, mostly from the hosts; the iTunes archive has them marked.

The shows are archived (though not very well organized) in reverse
chronological order. Shows from Jan 1, 2008 to current are on the
first page, with shows from November 24, 2005 to December 31, 2007 on
a second page available from a link at the top and bottom of the first
page. (There are even older shows on a third page linked from the
bottom of the second, but there are no Cirque-specific shows there).
Here's a list of their Cirque-related shows, in chronological order by
original airdate.

THE STRIP PODCAST - Steve Friess and Miles Smith

01/19/2006 - The fun Joey Arias, original Mistress of Seduction at
Zumanity talks about his early days in NYC. He also dishes on the
original Man2Man couple of Silverhut & King, about surprising the
Hilton sisters at the Premiere, and what kinds of rewards a job like
this can provide.

05/11/2006 - Franco Dragone - The always interesting Dragone talks
about going back to Cirque shows and shaking them up to bring emotion
back to the performers. Steve also gets him to discuss Cirque's first
meeting with Caesars Palace. Dragone also talks openly about Le Rêve
(which at that point had been opened a year) touching on the negative
reviews and what the pregnant women in the first performances of the
show actually meant. Finally he talks about the "A New Day" show with
Celine Dion and its development.

05/25/2006 - Cirque VP of Creation Gilles Ste-Croix has a funny story
about the LOVE premiere and Guy Laliberte getting stopped by security.
They also discuss his upbringing, the impact the Beatles had on a
young Ste-Croix, and the "symbolism of 4" in the show. He also breaks
the news (quite some time before it was officially announced) about
the Elvis show at Aria.

06/08/2006 - George and Gilles Martin, discussing the Beatles and LOVE
- Recorded about the same time as the KNPR interview we mentioned last
month. Done for an article that Friess wrote focusing on their
working relationship, the conversation naturally steers towards the
two of them and their process and dynamic. Goes into a bit of detail
about how the musical soundscape was first developed.

12/14/2006 - George Harrison's widow Olivia Harrison discusses LOVE.
The reclusive Harrison doesn't give many interviews so this is a coup.
There is a tantalizing tidbit about Guy's Grand Prix parties early on.
She also discusses an early potential location for the show (London
Battersea Park?). She discusses guarding George's legacy, and hearing
and seeing the show while keeping George in mind.

10/18/2007 - Two discussions about performing in Cirque shows in
separate interviews with "O" original cast and creation artist,
Russian swing diver Anastassia Dobrynina and "Mystere" bungee and
Korean plank performer Margalee Drolet. The "O" interview discusses
creation and Franco Dragone's irritation with the extensive
automation, and also features some soundboard audio from the show.
The Drolet interview talks about working in the Cirque environment and
coming back to the show after maternity leave.

06/26/2008 - Kyle Stokely, a 12-year old performer in LOVE. Also re-
listing of the George and Gilles Martin interview. Stokely talks
about how he got the part, what he does in the show, and what life is
like as a young performer. He also talks about the famous people he's
met as a cast member, including the surviving Beatles.

11/18/2008 - Guy Laliberte! - A short interview recorded outside (so
Laliberte could smoke). Friess asks some good questions about Criss
Angel, Cirque's dominance on the strip, and the investment in Cirque
by Dubai. Though short Laliberte speaks frankly.

03/10/2009 - A special video episode covering a day of Cirque Dance
Auditions in Las Vegas. First focusing on teaching the candidates a
section of dance from "Come Together" they perform it as a group and
in groups of 4 in the audition studio. Then comes improve, where they
are given a word and presented with previously-unknown music and must
react to it (an improv here based on the word "Chaplinesque" is fun).
The 9:20 video notes just 60 of the 400 dancers auditioning were

02/08/2010 - Cirque President Daniel Lamarre - This long interview,
recorded when Freiss was in Montreal to do a profile of Cirque
discusses a wide range of topics, and Freiss isn't shy about asking
tough probing questions. In a fascinating discussion, Lamarre talks
matter-of-factly about Cirque's business plans, the problems (and
possible solutions) with Banana Shpeel, Believe, and Zaia. He talks
about expanding into the "proscenium theater" market and the Kodak LA
show. He also breaks news about a show going into Radio City Music
Hall, and how the Dubai show is now on more or less permanent hold.
Highly recommended!

02/15/2010 - Franco Dragone (again!) - Another fascinating
conversation with the compelling Belgian director. Here Franco talks
about the history of why he left Cirque and what he thinks of their
expansion plans (not his style). He mentions he thinks Believes
problems are in the writing, and talks about the challenges of working
with Celine Dion and not overpowering her with the Dragone "brand."
He also talks about an upcoming arena show he's working on based on
"Kung Fu Panda" and his incredibly expensive Macao show "House of
Dancing Waters." Another highly recommended episode.

* * *

So thanks to Keith Johnson of Facination! for such a thorough review and such kind words. I've long been a fan of the Fascination! email newsletter, which I have subscribed to. I'm not real clear how I did it, though, since I can't find a link on the Fascination! site.


Anonymous said...

"Though short Laliberte speaks frankly."

I know Mr. Johnson was referring to the interview's duration but Laliberté's shortness of stature made this a hilarious Freudian slip.

David McKee

atdnext said...

Congrats! And btw, good job on The Philly Inquirer op-ed.

Keep up the great work. The Cirque piece was fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Nice piece and Philly should get over it. If they don't want casinos, that's a reasonable choice for the city to make. But if they are, Wynn will do a better job of it than anyone eles (Adelson would do a great job as well in all fairness) Two comments though:

1. You reference the Bellagio at the end of your piece not Wynn or Encore. Do you consider the Bellagio the bar for all hotel/casino/resorts to be measured by?

2. If Wynn were doing left wing "political diatribes" would that also be grounds for questioning whether or not he should get approval? Does he give up his right to free speech of any stripe because of what he does? I found this strange notion.