Wednesday, March 3, 2010

This Week's LVW Col: Critical Divide

Here's this week's LVW column. Nothing too profound, but I thought it was worth taking stock of. -sf

Critical Divide
Are out-of-town reviewers blinded by the lights?


One week before Viva Elvis “officially” opened, Time magazine’s Richard Corliss wrote the most effervescent review of the new show that Cirque du Soleil could have ever prayed or paid for.

“They’ve concocted an experience that’s both symphonic and in every way fantastic,” Corliss gushed in a line destined to be bathed in exclamation points and emblazoned on advertisements and probably the marquee for the show for years to come.

Corliss’ commentary came out long before Cirque’s requested embargo on reviews; those of us who went to see it for reporting purposes prior to the February 19 opening were asked not to judge because it was still a work in progress even though Aria and Cirque were happily taking good money from patrons. Alas, as the Time writer’s piece was so uniformly gleeful and full of absurd smiley faces like “no tribute show can touch this one in its level of sophistication and its power of evocation,” I don’t imagine anybody from Montreal complained.

Here in Vegas, however, those of us who keep tabs on all things Vegas and Cirque were flabbergasted. Most had endured the dreadful 15-minute preview staged for journalists in December and some had a chance to see the show in improved form in the weeks preceding the big debut. But while there was plenty of chatter about how the show had gotten better, the notion that it was in the league that Corliss claimed was baffling.

And yet after the show’s bow, the critical divide grew even more pronounced. That is, local reviewers were highly critical and out-of-town critics could not have been more thrilled.

It forced the question: Why? This was the very first time in my memory that I can recall such radically different takes from two populations of reviewers on a Vegas production. When Le Reve and Criss Angel Believe opened, the critical response everywhere was unanimous: They sucked. Anyone and everyone who came into even casual contact with those disasters went forth to warn people in the sternest of language that these were productions unworthy of a tourist’s precious time or money. Likewise, when a show was an obvious masterpiece—The Beatles Love and Garth Brooks spring to mind—everybody everywhere seemed to get that, too.

There is only one conclusion: When it comes to Vegas and Elvis, the prejudice toward stereotype and mockery and the expectations of banal schlock are so intense that anything even remotely elevated seemed to the out-of-towners like brilliance incarnate.

Read the REST at LasVegasWeekly.Com


Anonymous said...

I actually like the first version of Le Reve. I thought the original was more in the spirit of a Cirque experience where there was bizarre imagery and an attempt to be funny and ironic. I loved the funny men in the beginning, but they are gone in the newer version that I saw 2 years ago.

Also missing was the prolonged storyline of the boy's dream. The various audience interactions with the costumed characters went missing. The replacement of the dancers wasn't good.

Overall, I hate to say it, Le Reve is a minor shadow of the original with a price($) increase. I would not see it again unlike they bring back some of the excitement of the original show.

They should add or replace instead of subtract. The new Le Reve took out too much of the good show and replaced it with boring conventional material. said...

We just got our first reader email about it, and they LOVED it. Raved about it.

No clue if that trend will hold up, but someone likes the show.