Iris – a journey through the world of cinema by Cirque du Soleil

Iris is “A journey through the world of cinema” as seen through the lens (iris of the camera and the human eye) of live theater, street theater, mime, circus, dance, gymnastics, special effects and film.

Sister Madonna and I were given free tickets in hopes we would write a review for the faith community that would correspond with a group sales promotion for the show. Sister Madonna had been talking about seeing “Iris” since it opened at the now Dolby Theater here in Hollywood a year ago on September 25, 2011. She’d been saving up to see it when the tickets arrived, coinciding with her birthday – a lovely gift indeed.

The Dolby Theater was The Kodak Theater until earlier this year.

This imaginative and elaborate show cost $120 million to produce and is scheduled to play in Los Angeles for another nine years. It is directed by choreographer Philippe Decouflé. The music is by Danny Elfman, a three time Oscar-nominated composer.

I have been to the circus and to Shakespeare at the Olde Globe in San Diego; I’ve seen musicals on Broadway and in London. In high school I saw opera and went to the ballet. But until now never to a Cirque du Soleil performance. People of all ages, from small children to seniors, came dressed any which way, from very casual to business casual. There was no reverent hush as we waited for the show to start and there was popcorn aplenty. It was more like a circus. A couple of characters were already engaging members of the audience with their antics when we took our seats.

I’m going to let Sr. Madonna take over now:

“I finally went to the newly renamed Dolby Theater to view Iris- I had wanted to see this from the first time I had seen the advertisements.  This was also my first time to see the Dolby Theater where the Academy Awards are given (and will be at least until 2033 ).  Though it seats 3,400 people I was surprised at how compact an area the stage occupied.

“While we waited some of the costumed performers interacted with the audience, then the show began.  It was an amazing combination of dance, acrobatics, and projections.  While watching spectacular and impressive acts we follow a simple story of boy meets girl, loses girl as she becomes a star, then he rescues her and they finally get together.

“Some sub-stories are running throughout including the great lengths people will go to in trying to find a place in the cinema spotlight (including cross- dressing and a fake strip-tease). One sketch, in deference to the venue, refers to an awards ceremony.

“Tribute is given to the backstage hands and behind the scene crew who are essential in making the whole cinema experience come to life.

“Some of the movie references will be lost on younger audiences, but the movement, daring and color will captivate anyone.

“Having seen Cirque de Soleil’s “La Nouba” in Orlando I was expecting a larger stage area for the acts, but I found that it was easier to follow the actions and athletics in this smaller stage.

“I have a deep appreciation for the special section of the program that saluted film noir, one of my favorite genres. It was so very energetic and well choreographed with the brilliant colors for the gangster costumes.

“The whole performance was both brilliant and limited at the same time.

“I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves cinema and has a sense of humor.  It can be a great night out for groups- I would recommend sitting a little further back than the orchestra seat section – and make sure you stay to the end for a wonderful, daring finale.”

Sr. Madonna’s review is right on. Other reasons for students to see this performance is because it is a study in collaboration that demonstrates what becoming a performer requires. Though these folks are paid for their part in “Iris” I wonder if they are recompensed enough for the years of physical, musical, dance, art and design training and rigorous discipline to get to this point and sustain it.

I liked the nod to the early days of cinema, from the flip books that showed movement but especially Georges Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon” that was immortalized in this year’s Best Picture Oscar-winner “Hugo”.

“Iris” blends high art with the virtuosity of the acrobat and the street artist to tell its story that might only become more clear after.

I think “Iris” is nothing less than astonishing.

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