Changes coming to Cirque du Soleil's 'Viva Elvis'

Sorry, Elvis, but acrobats really are the new kings of Vegas.

Cirque du Soleil announced Wednesday that "Viva Elvis" will get a makeover to "make it less of a biographical representation of Elvis Presley and more of an acrobatic Cirque du Soleil spectacular production," according to a statement from the company's senior publicist, Renee-Claude Menard.

The Aria production will take an extended break in January. The revised version will incorporate acrobats moving over from "Zed," a Cirque production at Tokyo Disneyland that will close at the end of December, mortally wounded by earthquake-related damage to the Japanese economy.

Explaining in more detail by phone, Menard said "we would have made changes anyway," even without the misfortune of "Zed." Cirque and MGM Resorts officials already had agreed "we knew we wanted to make it more acrobatic. ... What 'Zed' brought to the table was an opportunity."

Cirque and its landlord already had "common agreement" that "the bio expression of Elvis is not necessarily appealing to our demographic, the type of demographics we'd like to have, so let's look at it a different way. Make it a Cirque du Soleil spectacular featuring Elvis as a singer," Menard said.

As such, the character of Elvis' manager, Tom Parker, as narrator likely will be eliminated, though "I think we have to wait until the changes are all done," Menard said.

The size of the company will remain "at least the same, if not bigger," Menard said. The show will remain as is until the end of the year.

Failure is not an option for Cirque in Las Vegas, which has seven shows on the Strip and hasn't closed one since "Mystere" debuted in 1993. But "Viva Elvis" is the second consecutive production to undergo dramatic revision after underwhelming public and critical reception.

"Believe," the most recent show before "Viva Elvis" debuted in February 2010, has been stripped of most of its Cirque-related production elements to become more of a traditional magic showcase for Criss Angel.

The company also plans to "review all marketing strategies to reposition 'Viva Elvis,' " according to the news release.

Changes to the "Elvis" show have been in the works since at least January, when a reboot was promised for spring. "The really big changes are taking time to come because they're expensive and needed approval," artistic director Gene Lubas said in January. "I want to use more Cirque trickery and magic to bring the show closer to the public."

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ or 702-383-0288.