When Cirque du Soleil announced it was creating an action and stunt-based show called R.U.N for the Luxor, declaring it a bold step in a new direction, there was certainly some skepticism about just how different the show would feel from its other epic Cirque productions on the Las Vegas Strip.
Much of that skepticism came from people like me. I've seen every Cirque show multiple times and follow the company closely, charting its immense impact on the Strip's entertainment landscape. But I also knew that my familiarity with all things Cirque du Soleil would make it difficult to see R.U.N with a truly open mind, to evaluate it on its own merits and remove the looming expectations that come with any creative endeavor from this standard-setting organization.
And I'm not the only one; read any online review and you'll probably catch a disclaimer or warning, pointing out that R.U.N is unlike any other Cirque show in Vegas. It seems no one has been able to watch this show without referring to its predecessors.
R.U.N is a true genre show. If Zumanity is Cirque doing its version of a sexy adult show and Ká is Cirque doing its version of an action-adventure show, then R.U.N must be a similar effort, dabbling in different themes, right? Not at all. There are few familiar Cirque elements in R.U.N. It's as if Cirque turned over direction and scripting to a whole different collection of artists, which makes sense considering the heavy collaboration behind this show (including with writer Robert Rodriguez, the film director).
There were plenty of shocking moments during the November 14 grand opening performance at Luxor, but looking back, I have to wonder how surprised the audience would have been had R.U.N been produced by anyone other than Cirque du Soleil. There are a few four-letter words. There's a scene built around a villainous doctor's torture chamber with some graphic, freak show-style performance. The overall vibe of the show is dark and gritty, a no-holds-barred battle between rival gangs, quite similar to the tone of Rodriguez's big-screen version of Frank Miller's graphic novel Sin City.
R.U.N also features some incredible motorcycle stuntwork, well-choreographed group combat scenes, ridiculously huge pyrotechnic effects, an actual storyline with unpredictable twists and an unprecedented combination of video projection used with live footage.
The show begins as an actual film before the live performance explodes into the audience, with the "hero" bursting through a wall offstage. Even if the show is happening behind you, you can see the action projected on screens that extend along both sides of the theater. The overused description "immersive" is an accurate choice here.
With R.U.N, Cirque is targeting a somewhat younger audience that appreciates action and horror flicks, comic books and pounding rock music. It's unquestionably innovative. If you like to see shows in Las Vegas, this one is a must because it's so different.
R.U.N Wednesday-Sunday, 7 & 9:30 p.m., $64-$251. Luxor, 855-706-5433.