Long before NASCAR brought the Blue Deuce to town for the Sprint Cup Series banquet, Las Vegas was the home of Elvis Presley and his Blue Suede Shoes.
The two not-so-different fan bases will be brought together during Friday's Cup banquet when Viva ELVIS by Cirque du Soleil puts on an abbreviated version of its monstrous show for the cream of the NASCAR crop.
Julie Aucoin, Cirque Du SoleilOne of the more exciting parts of the show is during 'Got a Lot of Livin' to Do.' The full show, which runs for 90 minutes and is performed at the ARIA Resort and Casino, offers a 29-foot, 7,000-pound blue suede shoe and nearly 400 Elvis costumes designed by Stefano Canulli featuring approximately 100,000 crystals. The show calls for more than 450 pairs of shoes and 150 custom wigs.
Musical director and arranger Erich van Tourneau and Ugo Bombardier went through 914 authorized and unauthorized albums and numerous films, concert recordings and interviews, taking more than 3,000 hours to find what they were looking for to create the show.
It's over-the-top and absolute sensory overload, much like NASCAR itself. It's no wonder the two came together for a celebration.
"I think this show is really set up to do these type of events," said Jack Kenn, the vice president and general manager of Cirque du Soleil Las Vegas. "NASCAR's a huge, huge partner in Vegas, specifically with Champion's Week and the speedway itself. This was something we really, really wanted to get involved in."
The challenge for Kenn and his people was to take a show built for a massive set -- 16 platforms, the largest of which is 18 feet by 80 feet, and a 30-ton add-on for the Got a Lot of Livin' to Do segment -- and transform it into a smaller show for a smaller stage in just a handful of minutes instead of the full 90.
They will take stars from the nightly shows at the ARIA and bring them to the Wynn Las Vegas, where the banquet is being held. Backups will take the spot in the nightly show, just for Friday night. While final preparations will be made this week in rehearsals, show publicist Ann Paladie said the banquet performance will include an eight-piece band performing Burning Love followed by Viva Las Vegas, and it will have dancers in Elvis jumpsuits and showgirls.
But if you're attending the show, or watching the broadcast, don't expect the Cirque du Soleil you've seen in the past.
"What makes it different is there's a lot more dancing than a lot of our other shows," Kenn said. "The acrobatics are specific to things Elvis loved, like amusement parks. It's very emotional. We have the whole section of him going into the Army, and all the dance numbers. What comes out of that is a perfect tribute to Elvis created by Cirque du Soleil. That's what sets it apart."
Kenn said people are always longing to compare it to The Beatles LOVE which is a permanent show at the Mirage. It's understandable, both being based on iconic musical acts. However, LOVE featured only piped-in Beatles songs, no recreations and no live singing. Viva ELVIS features four female singers -- though the only male voice you'll hear is Elvis's -- and his songs have been remixed into a new sound while still keeping the same feel.
"They said, 'Here's the tapes, play around with it a little. Just don't mess with Elvis.' " Kenn said. "We had a few more options there and we could play around a little bit. We wanted to make it sound like Elvis was singing in a nightclub today, in 2010, so we rearranged it but you still recognized it and it's still his voice."
Cirque du Soleil isn't stopping with those two acts, either. Slated for a fall 2011 release is Michael Jackson The IMMORTAL World Tour. The company was working with Jackson prior to his death, and will launch the show in October. Kenn said it takes three years or more from conception of an idea to putting on the show.
"We like to work with people who are as creative as we are, so we can turn it upside down and twist it around and see what we come up with," Kenn said. "We always try different things. Always have, always will. We don't like the status quo as a company. We do things because we love to create."
Elvis was never one for subdued stage performances, so Canulli's costumes attempt to play off that without going for strict reproduction or parody.
NASCAR takes Vegas by storm "I flirted with the look of the Elvis years through an approach that is both classic and graphic," Canulli said in a release. "I brought to it a contemporary touch that reflects the vitality of the era. I've borrowed from 1950s design and sublimated it to create a world of eclectic Technicolor lines to come up with a dynamic fantasy that highlights the body."
While there are no Elvis impersonators in the show, there certainly have been some in the audience. Kenn said they generally join the rest of the audience in being filled with questions afterward.
"Everyone gets something out of it," Kenn said. "'That music was amazing,' or 'I can't believe how they do some of those acrobatic things.' People get two things: some sort of emotional attachment and then they get questions. How do they do that, how warm is the water, how far do they jump ... but they're curious because they're so passionate about what they just saw. They can't help but become involved."
As for the target demographic for the show? Pretty much everyone, Kenn said.
"We get people of all ages," Kenn said. "Kids love the show because it's so bright. They have no idea who Elvis is but they don't care. I took my daughter, who is 17, to the opening last year. She didn't know much about Elvis, but she said, 'He's hot.' "
He's hoping for an eye-opening show that will entertain those at the banquet and those watching on TV.
"I think the unmistakable thing here is Elvis," Kenn said. "Everyone loves Elvis. It takes Elvis and introduces them to Cirque du Soleil. We'll see, but I think the reaction will be very positive."