Cirque du Soleil prepares for first L.A. rehearsals of ‘Iris’ at Kodak Theatre

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Cirque du Soleil is taking another step forward on its long road to a permanent home in Hollywood. Its new multimillion-dollar production, “Iris,” will begin rehearsals at the Kodak Theatre on Monday in preparation for the start of preview performances on July 21.

Artists and creative team members are set to arrive in L.A. starting Monday and will begin working at the Kodak right away. The team, which includes 72 performers, has been rehearsing “Iris” in Montreal, where Cirque has its headquarters. Rehearsals will continue in L.A. until previews begin.


A recent tour of the Kodak showed that Cirque has extensively modified the backstage area of the theater to meet the technical and artistic demands of the show. The company has installed a giant new lift system, already in operation, that will be used to transport heavy scenery. The system sits in an area beneath the stage that crews have excavated over the past year.

Cirque has been gradually loading in the physical production, including sets and equipment, since March.

Daniel Lamarre, the president and CEO of Cirque, said that the modifications to the Kodak -- which also include new service tunnels and amenities for performers -- were carried out in cooperation with the city and CIM Group, the private owner of the Hollywood & Highland complex.

Lamarre said the the Kodak was the only venue Cirque considered for “Iris” because of its association with the Academy Awards and the amount of tourist foot traffic in the area. The idea for the show originated when the company performed at the Oscars ceremony in 2002.

“Iris” is set to officially open on Sept. 25, with an expected eight performances a week, though it could go as high as 10, according to Lamarre. The show, which will be the permanent resident of the Kodak, will go dark for about one month each year so that the theater can be used for the Oscars ceremony.

Each performance will accommodate an audience of about 2,500, according to Cirque. The Kodak is designed to seat around 3,400 people but Cirque said it won’t utilize the top tier of seats. Some of the side box seats will be used for live musicians.

“Iris,” which is written and directed by French choreographer Philippe Decouflé, will showcase Cirque’s signature acrobatics and aerial stunts. The production is inspired by the invention of cinema and will feature a love story between two fictional characters. The original music is by Danny Elfman, the film composer who has worked frequently with Tim Burton and who wrote the theme to “The Simpsons.”

Cirque leaders said they have also acquired additional rehearsal space at Universal Studios that will be used by performers.

“Iris” is one of three new shows that Cirque is scheduled to debut this year. The others are “Zarkana” at Radio City Music Hall in New York, set for this summer, and the Michael Jackson-themed touring show, set for October.


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-- David Ng

Photo (top): Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, at the Kodak Theatre. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Photo (bottom): The Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times