Summer of Cirque: Walk through The Beatles LOVE’s Prop Room

LOVE, a co-production with Apple Corps Ltd. and Cirque du Soleil, celebrates the legendary band, The Beatles and is exclusively at The Mirage in Las Vegas. LOVE brings the thrills of Cirque du Soleil together with the spirit of The Beatles to create an intimate and powerful Las Vegas show for the ages. It captures the essence of love that John, Paul, George and Ringo inspired during their astonishing adventure together. The show would not be the same without the elaborate props that are not only functional but intriguing to the senses as well.  

Richard Amiss is the Head of Props at The Beatles LOVE and his fervor for his craft and passion for the show are the reasons why Cirque du Soleil is able to produce an unforgettable experience in Las Vegas. Richard took us backstage at LOVE to get an insider’s perspective on what props  excite and intrigue the audience and complete the scene that they are in. 

LOVE has nearly 900 individual items in the props department, 350 of which are completely unique. The Beatles LOVE Props Department has six people working non-stop during the 90-minute show. They manage every aspect of the props from driving remote-controlled devices and maneuvering puppets to setting up the props to ensure the show runs without a hitch.

The first prop that we saw when we went backstage was a Gold Filigree Volkswagen Beetle, which backstage is called the Smoking Car. The only original parts on this Volkswagen Beetle are the wheels, the seats, the steering wheel and the front end rack and pinion. It was custom built by Michael Curry, the famous puppet designer well-known for  the puppets in The Lion King on Broadway to The Transformers costumes in Universal Orlando, along with other Cirque du Soleil projects. Richard states, “In Beatles history, there was a guy in the’70s that made a car like this and it got in the cover of magazines and was attributed to The Beatles culture.”  The reason they call it the Smoking Car is due to the switch inside that turns on the fog which emanates from the hood. 

This Volkswagen Beetle has a Steampunk vibe to it.

The West Wing Prop Storage area

But that is just one of the four Beetles they have backstage in LOVE. Two more Beetles can be found in the West Wing, where they have a props storage area. These two Beetles are identical, and are called the Crash Cars. Also designed by Michael Curry, this Beetle model is made up of 11 individual pieces and takes 11 performers to animate on stage, five performers inside the car and six on the outside. The pieces are attached together with magnets and there’s only one small hatch on the hood, where one performer can peer through to see on stage. The crash Beetle is made out of light materials which makes it so light you can actually move it with one pinky finger.

Here’s Richard moving it with his pinky.

Let’s take a look under the hood.

The second Crash Car is stored above the first.

Small see-through screen on the hood of the Crash Car

The Kabuto Ladder and the Rolling Car

The last Volkswagen Beetle is similar to the construction of the Smoking Car, but it has been reinforce with metal to support acrobats jumping in, out, and on top of it; they call this one the Rolling Car. It’s placed right next to the Kabuto Ladder, which goes out during the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds act.  The Kabuto Ladder weighs a total of 1500 pounds That’s 500 pounds for the wheels and ladder and 1000 pounds for the base. There are marks at the end of the ladder for the center of gravity, so the performers know exactly where to stand or hold the ladder to perform the jolting tricks done on stage with this prop. 

The two remote-controlled trains

Other than the automobiles, another type of prop you’ll see in The Beatles LOVE is trains. There are seven different trains in the show. There are four Trains of Light that are pulled by four kid characters in the show. There are two 35-foot long remote controlled trains, which are probably the hardest prop in the show to master. Richard clarifies, “There’s so much training involved in driving those. It’s so dark and at times you can only see it because of the two headlights…and you’re driving it next to 50-foot holes with people in the holes.” And lastly, there’s Eleanor Rigby’s Train and the Train of Tricycles.

Eleanor Rigby’s Train: this prop has been with the show since its creation and is unique because it is made up of antique store findings.

The Train of Tricycles

Speaking of tricycles, Richard’s favorite prop in LOVE is the remote-controlled tricycle, which also was featured in the film Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away. Richard explains this is because he built it. It was originally designed to be towed, but the team decided to make it a fully functional tricycle, and built it in-house. Now, you can even ring the bell from the tricycle by remote. It even has its own microphone, so when you hear the tricycle ring during the show; it was done by someone in the props department.

The LOVE props department is responsible for  maintaining, fixing, and creating new props if needed. There are a number of umbrellas in LOVE, and each of them look or do something unique, which is the beauty of the work they do at the prop department. Some of the most amazing props in LOVE are common items, but somehow they’ve been altered in a way that you don’t expect. It’s just one of the ways that Cirque du Soleil keeps audiences on their toes.

With The Beatles LOVE, you get to explore the world of Cirque du Soleil, but it’s also a celebration of The Beatles through the music. So what does some of the other character bring to the table as far as props? Well, Eleanor Rigby has her train, but there’s so much more to explore from Sgt. Pepper to Doctor Robert.

Sgt. Pepper’s Bundle: If it looks like Sgt. Pepper is having trouble carrying his bundle, that’s because it’s completely off-center and weighs about 40 to 50 lbs.

Sgt. Pepper’s Whistle: The smallest prop in LOVE, and it’s made in England.

The kids of Liverpool bed with the bed sheet that covers almost the entire house

Lady Madonna’s clothesline: The easiest prop to maintain. The secret is that the clothes are made out of the same material they use to make a parachute.

Doctor Robert’s Smoking Teapot: He uses it before the show starts and interacts with audience members. If you get close enough, you can smell a faint strawberry scent infused in the smoke.

Doctor Robert’s Glowing Teapot

Distressed Instrument

With a full carpentry and metal shop in-house, Richard and his team can fabricate almost anything, which empowers imagination. It’s the perfect recipe you see in all of the Cirque du Soleil shows. Creative minds with passion and resources make the world’s most entertaining shows.  Richard admits that it is fun for him to buy really nice instruments from music shops, and tell them that they are going to set them on fire and beat them up. The reaction is priceless.  

To see all these amazing props backstage and in person, look for The Beatles LOVE Cirque Insider Access Tour, which includes a tour backstage before the show and premiem seats for the show. It's Las Vegas done right, as a VIP. Don't forget to say hello to Richard if you see him backstage! 

Las Vegas, NV – 07/24/13


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