Las Vegas Sun

December 5, 2019

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Aggressive innovation marks Cirque du Soleil’s action-packed ‘R.U.N’

R.U.N

Courtesy Cirque du Soleil

Characters and combat drive the action in “R.U.N” at Luxor.

Sun on the Strip

R.U.N opens, Donny & Marie closes

R.U.N, Donny & Marie, Bruno Mars, CeeLo Green and more.

There are only two questions that really matter when it comes to Cirque du Soleil’s new resident show “R.U.N” at Luxor, hyped as a first-of-its-kind live-action thriller. Does it deliver on the heavily promoted promise to bring something new and cool to the Las Vegas Strip? More importantly, is it entertaining?

Thursday night’s grand opening performance easily answered yes to both questions. From the moment of the protagonist’s first appearance — not at center stage but busting through a window along one of the theater’s sidewalls behind half the audience — it’s clear that “R.U.N” will be unlike any other show experience in Vegas and perhaps anywhere else. It’s a fast-paced 75 minutes stocked with stunts, combat, motorcycles and all-around-you action, but well-defined characters, a pronounced plot, extensive live and pre-produced video footage and a hard-boiled soundtrack are equal contributors to a truly innovative presentation.

“R.U.N” opened for preview shows at Luxor on October 24 after Cirque du Soleil announced the production in April, noting it would move away from the company’s signature acrobatics and avant-garde artistic vision. Acclaimed action and horror filmmaker Robert Rodriguez wrote the script, and there are obvious stylistic similarities between “R.U.N” and his 2005 graphic novel-inspired flick “Sin City.” Versatile stage director and producer Michael Schwandt is the director, and music producer and film score composer Tyler Bates created the show’s soundtrack, a rock-electronic hybrid that also incorporates a remixed version of New Order’s “Blue Monday,” among other songs.

Click to enlarge photo

Things go bad fast for the main characters of "R.U.N."

The show begins as a film. The story starts on the stage’s huge video screen as the main character, identified only as “Me,” trudges into a desert chapel somewhere beyond the boundaries of a fictionalized Las Vegas, a man on a mission to break up a wedding and retrieve … something. He gets what he needs and flees the church with a horde of slickly dressed goons in hot pursuit. The chase moves through the Neon Museum Boneyard and some familiar Fremont East-area downtown streets before the movie comes to life throughout the theater and the audience learns this conflict is part of an ongoing gang war between the bad-guy Blakjax and the sorta-good-guy Street Kingz. A big battle ensues in an abandoned fireworks factory that catches fire, of course, as “Me” slugs it out with arch nemesis “The Groom” and motorcycles whiz by.

All of this is just the opening scene, made apparent by an incredible introductory credits sequence that makes the beginnings of James Bond movies seem boring. Such a direct approach to storytelling is something new for Cirque, best known for creating hazy dream worlds in its other Vegas shows. It’s the defining innovation of “R.U.N,” stronger even than the adult-oriented tone, the cinematic violence and the stunt-centered core of the performance. The narrative is built around predetermined action set pieces, but the story is everything and Cirque has never created a show this way before. If you’re a fan of the other Cirque shows on the Strip, “R.U.N” will be a fascinating watch on several different levels.

The action continues at a seedy Vegas motel; in a flashback sequence that explains the Romeo and Juliet-style love triangle between “Me,” “The Groom” and “The Bride”; in a twisted doctor’s torture chamber that will really make you wonder if you’re still watching a Cirque show; and during a creative car chase offering total sensory overload. There are plenty of plot twists and surprises along the way, and the final battle offers impressive motorcycle stunts that feel too big for the stage (in a good way). The story ends where it began with a satisfying conclusion that ties up loose ends and leaves you catching your breath.

The best way to judge an action movie is to ask yourself if you’d want to watch it again. Since this show essentially puts you inside such a movie, you’re definitely going to need to see it again, if only to catch all the action you missed. “R.U.N” carves a new path for Vegas shows and live entertainment in general, and that makes it a must-see, even if this genre or category isn’t your cup of tea. It’s simply too different and inventive to ignore.

“R.U.N” is performed at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday at the R.U.N Theater at Luxor (3900 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 855-706-5433) and more information can be found at cirquedusoleil.com.