For the Record: Baz Is All Over the Place … in a Good Way

Photo by Denise Truscello

Photo by Denise Truscello

Check your health plan—does it cover For the Record: Baz?

Medically speaking, you’d know the condition as whiplash—but with music, triple plots, doomed love, poison, gangs, a prostitute, angel wings, Shakespeare, actors hanging off half-moons, Fitzgerald, Madonna being touched for the very first time, Elton John and voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir.

You might not want to be cured.

Bracing in its alternative-theater boldness—or alternative-nightclub boldness, depending on which of the twin target demos you are—Baz at Mandalay Bay’s Light nightclub is a rock concert crashing into “immersive theater,” the latter explaining the whiplash effect all around the multitiered nightspot.

Action and actors are sprayed everywhere like snapping the top off a well-shaken Coke can.

Cherry-picking hits from the pop-song scores of director Baz Luhrmann’s movies (backed by a live band), Baz intersects and overlaps love stories from the filmmaker’s Moulin Rouge!, The Great Gatsby and Romeo + Juliet by cleverly excerpting scenes from each, actors smoothly shifting in and out of each other’s stories, and even roles.

Largely, and against the odds, it works, though initially, it feels off-balance.

Like the shiny decadence in which Luhrmann luxuriates onscreen, the party scenes from Gatsby and Moulin Rouge!—brimming with opulent costumes and exuberant choreography—fizz like newly popped Champagne. Yet while those two intertwine well, we’re abruptly jerked into a dissonant world when the gang-warfare setting of Luhrmann’s contemporary Romeo + Juliet jumps into the fray.

Ginifer King as Satine in Moulin Rouge. | Photo by Denise Truscello.

Ginifer King as Satine for Moulin Rouge in For the Record: Baz. | Photo by Denise Truscello.

Also, Moulin Rouge! seems to get more time in the first half to establish its romance between sensitive poet Christian and the courtesan Satine. Etching vivid portraits in short order in those roles are Constantine Rousouli and Ginifer King, the cast standouts.

Though forced to play catchup, Gatsby’s Jay and Daisy (Ciaran McCarthy, Ruby Lewis) and Romeo + Juliet’s tortured lovers (James Byous, Olivia Harris) eventually emerge from the shadows. Even in truncated form, the script and the performers manage to get us invested in each story and character.

Inside this mashed-up, light-speed, hellzapoppin happening, the survival of emotional resonance on any level is a minor miracle. You can easily get happily lost in this sensory circus (it is, after all, a product of Cirque du Soleil’s new theatrical division). Just look—everywhere.

At the 60-foot video wall. At the ceiling monitors. At the crossbeams of colored light. At actors suspended on the aforementioned half-moon. At performers gliding down from the ceiling. At the ones running past you spouting dialogue. At the ones assuming positions above, below and beside you to rock out, amplified by multiple giant speakers as your head and body swivel from your sofa-style seating.

In Luhrmann tradition, contemporary tunes provide anachronistic fun—relative to two of its stories set 100-plus years ago—including “Lady Marmalade,” “Your Song,” “Kissing You,” “Love Is in the Air,” “Like a Virgin,” “When Doves Cry” and “Up Where We Belong.”

As with Luhrmann himself, For the Record: Baz infuses high art with high camp to give Vegas an invigorating new vamp.

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