'Love' and 'Love's' big do light up Vegas

Special to The Times

Two of the Fab Four -- Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr -- and the widows and children of John Lennon and George Harrison got a little help from their friends at the opening night of "Love," Cirque du Soleil's Beatles show.

An estimated 5,000 people came to Friday's star-studded shows and the after-party that didn't end until many hours after the 10:30 show ended. Guests enjoyed two back-to-back psychedelic multimedia performances featuring footage of the mop tops, acrobatics, dancers and 130 digitally enhanced and remixed Beatles songs and conversations, staged in the Mirage's new circular theater.

Paul and Ringo posed for photos but didn't pause for press on the red carpet Friday night. But the invited guests sure did.

"It's an historic night," said Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, a close friend of Harrison and the other Beatles. He joked that he came to check out the competition. "We're opening 'Spamalot' here next March, just up the street," he said.

Blondie's Deborah Harry wore a sparkly bright orange minidress. Also walking the carpet were Virginia Madsen, Billy Crystal, supermodel Lauren Hutton, Helen Mirren, Megan Mullally, Gina Gershon, Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland, designer Roberto Cavalli, Brian Wilson, Kevin Nealon, Jason Patric, "Seinfeld's" Michael Richards, and Vegas headliners Wayne Brady, Criss Angel and Carrot Top.

Siegfried and -- miraculously -- Roy, who still looks dazed after that nasty white tiger bite, came to show their support.

Even a stone-faced Steven Van Zandt sounded upbeat. "The Beatles set the standard for pop music, and the Cirque set the standard for live performances in Vegas," Van Zandt said. "Hopefully, this will keep Beatle music alive and turn more people on to their songs."

Harrison and Cirque creator Guy Laliberte conceived the project in 1997, four years before Harrison's death.

"This project is one of emotion," Laliberte said on the red carpet. "It was George's dream to have all the Beatles work together creatively one more time. When he passed on, it became important to everyone to make it happen."

This was the first time the extended Beatles clan has ever appeared together in public, and the old rifts looked mended. After both performances, Paul, Ringo, Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono ran onstage together and waved to the standing and wildly applauding audience. McCartney shouted, "John and George, this is for you!"

"Yes, John, Richard, Olivia and I were all very involved in the production and in picking the songs," said Ono, clad in a white pantsuit, with rhinestone glasses, false eyelashes and an enormous white hat. "And I think we are all very happy. And surprise, surprise, we all agreed on everything. The only thing I regret is that John is not here. He would have loved this."

Backstage, McCartney hugged and kissed Ono, whom he's barely spoken to since the band's 1970 breakup. And everyone, including Beatles producer George Martin, his son Giles, and Love director Dominic Champagne, posed proudly for a group shot.

Lennon's first wife, Cynthia, was also included in the evening's festivities. She and her son, Julian Lennon, stayed for the after-party inside the Mirage's huge Events Center. Julian and George's son, Dhani Harrison, smiled and hugged for photographers, looking eerily like their famous fathers when they were young.

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