R.U.N For The Exit – Cirque du Soleil’s Latest is an EPIC DISASTER

Tone-deaf stunt show-cum-blockbuster confuses vulgarity and violence for action…



UPDATE 3/8/20 I just attended the final performance of R.U.N, which was abruptly shuttered. I got the impression that the majority of the audience was comprised of friends and family. The show began about 15 minutes late. There was a lengthy cast/crew onstage farewell and the performers were snapping photographs with each other as the curtain lowered for the final time. 

Despite my absolute dislike for this production, I purchased tickets for third row, center section, to cheer on the performers, who carried no blame for this costly disaster. 

UPDATE 1/7/20 VitalVegas.com has reported that ticket sales for R.U.N have been suspended beyond 4/30/20. It is not known at this time whether the show is being permanently closed or shut down for retooling. But it’s worth noting that all other Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas are currently offering tickets through the end of December 2020. This doesn’t bode well for R.U.N, but then again, the show must NOT go on in its current state of “fiasco”.

If we can applaud entertainment companies for expanding outside of their comfort zone, then we’re surely entitled to speak up when they cross the line. That’s what’s been happening since Cirque du Soleil premiered R.U.N: The First Live Action Thriller at Luxor a few weeks ago. The public reaction has been overwhelmingly negative.

The outcry towards R.U.N has gotten so strong that I was bashed on Twitter for penning an opinion-free article describing the structure and content of the show for a freelance gig:

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Just how bad is it when readers DEMAND a negative review? Well…pretty darn bad indeed. R.U.N could have easily fallen into the category of “So awful that you have to see it”. Which is amusing when you consider that those very words described the previous occupant of Luxor’s theater – Criss Angel BeLIEve. That smelly heap of garbage somehow made it through ten long and miserable years (and several major overhauls) before Cirque could bleach away the stench and move forward with their next offering.


But this is what they came up with for their newest show? I couldn’t for the life of me recommend R.U.N to anyone in good conscience…not even an enemy. It’s an ugly, inconsistent, poorly-planned and sloppily-executed mess that lies there like a dead body in a ditch. That is, except when characters are shouting F-bombs, being wheeled through the audience strapped to a torture device, having a syringe of drugs pumped into their arm or suspended over the audience by a metal claw driven into the face.

Yes, those things really happen in a Cirque du Soleil show….and people get up and walk out during these revolting sequences night after night (or so I’ve been told). It certainly happened during a Saturday 7pm timeslot that I attended. It’s also worth noting that despite plenty of nationwide advertisements and billboards all over the city, the auditorium was shockingly empty…..perhaps 25 percent of the seats were taken, and that’s not counting the two upper sections that are blocked off and covered with canvas. Ouch.

So how could something so awful make it past a brainstorming session, let alone twice-a-night performances on the Vegas Strip? Your guess is as good as mine. But let’s be real here….Cirque‘s reputation as a top provider of entertainment isn’t what it used to be. Viva Elvis did so poorly for ARIA that they ripped out their gorgeous theater when replacement production ZARKANA tanked there, too.

There have been numerous other missteps in the past few years that have allowed Spiegelworld (Absinthe, Opium and Atomic Saloon Show) to take away and put a new shine on Cirque’s tarnished crown. And the failing attendance of Cirque’s six other resident productions has led to rumors of them pulling out of Vegas altogether in the next few years. That’s what happens when you glut the market on a worldwide scale. You’re forced to eat your own tail just to survive.

Does anyone remember IRIS, the $100 million Cirque du Soleil resident show in Hollywood that closed after only 16 months? How about Paramour, the New York-based musical which did so poorly that Broadway’s LYRIC Theater paid Cirque $23 million just to close up and leave? There were other high-profile flops like Zaia in Macau, Zed in Tokyo, Banana Schpeel (New York/Chicago) and the first attempt to launch BAZ in Las Vegas (yes, it was Cirque that brought BAZ to Mandalay Bay before pulling out mere weeks into the run).

For some reason, Cirque du Soleil has been obsessed with Hollywood as of late. They seem to think that people want to pay over $100 to see a movie salute…at a time when people are skipping the cinemas and doing Netflix-and-chill at home. Besides film-centric IRIS and Paramour, they collaborated with director James Cameron on Worlds Away, a fantasy film that barely made a blip at the 2012 box office. Then Cirque produced TORUK – The First Flight, a poorly-reviewed touring show (based on Cameron’s AVATAR) that one magazine called “A troubling, redface spectacle”.


                 R.U.N has guns, cars, drug dealers and LOTS of cardboard boxes…

Cirque even considered doing a Quentin Tarantino musical, but chose BAZ instead…because Tarantino films are so dark and violent! In an interview for Los Angeles Magazine in 2015, Cirque Theatrical‘s Scott Zeiger had this to say:

For the Record: Tarantino was going to be playing in Montreal. I went and loved it. I brought all of the top dogs from Cirque parent to see it. While all of them liked it, they were afraid for Cirque to get involved with this brand because the content of [Tarantino’s] films is pretty violent and deals with subject matter that might not be on the same wavelength with Cirque du Soleil’s more spiritual, love-oriented, happier themes.”

Yet here we are with a brand new $63 million production written by film director Robert Rodriguez, the man behind super-violent films like Planet Terror, Machete, Machete Kills and From Dusk Til Dawn. Somehow the company that once brought you glorious productions like Mystere and The Beatles LOVE thinks you want to spend an evening…and your hard-earned cash…watching the kind of show you’d slip into at Universal Studios for free to get out of the heat.

And as the photo below shows, people just didn’t care about the characters or what was going on all around them in the theater.


                  Some people would rather stare at their phones than watch R.U.N…

That in itself shows just how tone-deaf Cirque has become to our current culture. And R.U.N lacks any kind of wink-wink fun that audiences might expect from the show’s advertisements. People are depicted as being tortured, killed and burned alive. One character has his arms and legs pulled out of joint and broken (with the sound of bone cracks amplified by Luxor’s megawatt sound system).


Speaking of the sound system, this show is absolutely deafening. About five minutes in, my ears were literally hurting and my head began to throb. Fortunately, I’d read some online reviews warning about the extreme decibel level and brought along a pair of earplugs that stayed in place until the lights came up.

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So can this show be saved? Yes, it can. When Le Reve premiered at WYNN back in 2006, it was received so poorly that performances were cut and the production received a major retooling. Now it’s considered one of the best shows on the Strip…because audience reaction was analyzed and changes were made. And that HAS to happen with R.U.N, too.


                   You’d have more fun playing a video game in a dark, creepy alley….

I predict a full closure for this show and a massive gutting. Costumes and sequences will be tossed out and the torture depictions have to go. Right now. There is no charismatic leading man to cheer for, no emotional investment in the fates of the characters, and even the plot (“retrieve a necklace to win” belongs in a video game, not a stage) will need to be refashioned into something people care about. A kidnapped child, perhaps? A damsel in distress? Anything but a pendant holding some secret data.


The opening sequence, which is an actual film, goes on for far too long. From the get-go, people will be wondering “Did I just pay $300 to take my date to a movie?”. When flesh-and-blood characters actually appear, their performances and stunts will have you shrugging. Gang fights are so choreographed and punches so fake that you’ll think you’ve wandered into a high school production of “West Side Story”, despite silvery mylar costumes and moon boots that belong in a 90’s boyband video.


Imagine if this show was built around an actual, heroic movie star! How cool would it be to watch the likes of Van Damme, Stallone, Chris Pratt or Dwayne Johnson doing their best stunt work before your eyes?  Even a live-action version of a familiar movie would be a cool idea…perhaps Rodriguez’s own SIN CITY, a hit film based on the works of Frank Miller. Now THAT is something I might recommend, not this violent, rambling and ugly excuse for a show.


And yes, there were children in attendance despite a disclaimer stating that the material is intended for mature audiences 13 and up. I questioned a box office attendant as to whether they enforce this policy and she told me that they do not…it is a recommendation, not a restriction.

R.U.N is not a show for kids. Or teens. Or adults…or anyone, for that matter. Run as far away from R.U.N as you can…and don’t look back. Sorry, Cirque, but you’ve lost it…and heads are certainly going to roll.

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Normally I’d put ticketing information and showtimes here, but that’s not going to happen this time. See anything else (except for Mariah Carey or Criss Angel) but skip this bomb.

Photos: Sam Novak

Author: Sam Novak

Fitness buff, outspoken critic/blogger focusing on shows, restaurants, events and performers in Las Vegas. Freelancer for Las Vegas Magazine, Staff writer for BestOfVegas.com. Former contributing editor for VegasChatter and former deputy editor for VegasBright...

10 thoughts on “R.U.N For The Exit – Cirque du Soleil’s Latest is an EPIC DISASTER”

  1. Sam,
    Your right about everything, this is a complete train wreck. The fact that this show made it through Cirques development and MGM signed off on it says a lot about both organizations right now. This show is targeted to a young male audience who like graphic and violent images. Did no one realize that the previous tenant of this space, Criss Angel, had a show targeted at that exact same demographic. Last Friday I actually saw Criss new show at 7pm followed by RUN at 9:30, perhaps its because I saw this disaster directly after, but cirque should have saved 60 million and kept Angel. After 10 years his show had finally become decent (although far from the best magic show in town).
    As you point out when you drop $300 your expecting to see alive show, not a 20 minute cheap movie, followed by a show where 50% takes place behind scrims so you can’t see any of the action. The problems go beyond the terrible concept, this show clearly wasn’t directed by anyone with theater experience. Sitting center the sightlines are terrible, fight sequences are staged 40 feet in the air where no one can see the action. Even the motorcycle finale which should be the highlight of the show is a disaster. The main jump ramp is so far down stage you can’t see the motorcycles get up to speed so you miss the jump. They also placed a useless giant ramp upstage center which forces the motorcycles to pump the brakes for fear of hitting he first row of the audience. The bike stunts at my local carnival are better than this.
    Sadly aside from the torture scene there isn’t even anything memorable. Cirque promoted stunts, Disney’s Indiana Jones Stunt show, and Universals Waterworld or old T2 3D show are far better. Had cirque just looked at their inventory they already had pieces for this show that would have worked, while Viva Elvis was tremendously lacking the amazing trampoline chase sequence would have fit this type of show perfectly.
    Sam, Your right, they will have to shut this down for a few months to fix it, they are probably let it run while they hire a new team, but truthfully without even one or two scenes worth keeping they really should just cut their looses, close it completely and take time to reevaluate. Obviously they won’t, they’ll drop another 10 or 15 million to try to fix it, it’ll be done a year after that.
    On my 40 hour trip last week I also so Atomic Saloon Show, Spiegelworld has become everything Cirque used to be, that show is hilarious, inventive, and polished for something so new. In the current Vegas market they went to an even smaller room, and cast a show with only 12 people, its great theater, and a cost effective model that can actually work. Cirque needs to learn bigger isn’t always better, and they really need to figure out how they got so far, spent so much money, without having someone, anyone on their team who could tell truth to power and figure out this was a disaster.


    1. Show was great. Sounds like you had lousy seats because everything is visible and came across well. You complained because you can’t see motorcycles getting up to speed? Really?

      Funny how everyone cheered after the show and was talking about how good the show was. I didn’t hear a negative word from anyone – quite the contrary actually.


  2. Great story. I will be skipping this. What happened to Cirque? They lost all connection to reality. Las Vegas shows are tired and bankrupt. I wonder what’s the next great savior of Las Vegas. There’s nothing to do there today except eat and eat and eat.


  3. I disagree with almost all of this review. R.U.N was fantastic, cutting edge, and featured a brilliant production. As someone that’s seen every Cirque show on the strip and and most other shows in Vegas, all I can say is your review is absolute garbage. If you want family friendly, go to see Blue Man Group. This show is perfect blend of storytelling, action and a fantastic production. No one was bored or walked out. That element of your review is just plain fantasy.


  4. I have not seen R.U.N. But the overall theme of your article is that Cirque is a has been. When Guy LaLiberte sold parts and then all interest in the company, that is when things really went downhill. Cirque literally went into a “make a profit, at any cost” model. I think the ZAIA, ZED shows were put into a really tough Asian market. After seeing “House of Dancing Water” which is an excellent show, but the audience was half empty. Asians are not as fanatic Cirque fans as Westerners in America and Europe are. The other shows you mention, Iris and Paramour, and I may add Zarkana were introduced during bad economic times. There even was a Cirque theatre built in Disneyland Paris that never opened. But all that was still under LaLiberte.

    Maybe the pandemic was Cirque’s come to Jesus moment? The CEO is the same Daniel Lamarre that everyone stated was the problem with the over-expansion. Maybe he realized that that this a back to basics moment. I guess we all shall see. But, I wish that Disney had bought them 10 years ago, because, I think all this angst would have been less.


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