Though some try, no other production house comes close to the magical creations of Cirque du Soleil. The inventive combinations of acrobatics, music, drama, costumes, and performance continue to astound audiences in show after show.
Cirque’s latest offering, Zarkana, recently premiered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City with plans to also play the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow. Zarkana’s story revolves around a magician who is alone in an abandoned building because his love interest has left him along with his magic. Sending up prayers, the magician arrives in a strange, mesmerizing new world where he searches for a way to restore his powers.
The theme of a character being somehow lost to this world and transported to a new one appears in many of Cirque’s shows. The setting of each project also factors in. Some shows are designed to travel around in the iconic blue and yellow tent, while other productions prefer a residency, such as in Las Vegas where Cirque du Soleil has planted quite a few roots.
Being set in a massive pool within a theatre at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil’s O marked a departure on the staging front, but the Cirque signatures are all over it. Here, scuba-trained acrobats and synchronized swimmers perform trapeze, contortion, high dives, aerial hoops, and more as they tell the story of a young, inquisitive Silician boy named Philemon finds himself immersed in a magical world where he must face his not only his fears, but his hopes and dreams, as well.
Another twist on the traditional format came with Cirque du Soleil’s Love, a re-imagining of The Beatles. Housed at The Mirage in Las Vegas, Love boasts a $100 million theatre built especially for it replete with 6,341 speakers and about 2,000 seats around a center stage – each seat has three speakers built in. The Love story traces The Beatles’ history up to the 1970 dissolution with characters like Eleanor Rigby, Sgt. Pepper, Lucy in the Sky, and Lady Madonna.
A third Las Vegas-based Cirque show, Kà, goes with a more straightforward story line in what the Los Angeles Times deemed “the most lavish production in the history of Western theater. It is surely the most technologically advanced.” With fewer twists and turns than most of the Cirque allegories, Kà‘s story keeps it simple with a focus on “conflict and love.” Of course to keep it interesting, two imperial twins, separated in their youth, each follow their own paths of self-discovery where they face Kà, a fire that can both destroy and illuminate.
The seasonal productions of Wintuk, sometimes known as A Winter Tale, stray from the Las Vegas base to reside in the Theater at Madison Square Garden from early November to early January each year since 2007. Although the story unfolds with a young boy named Jamie, the main character might well be snow. It’s winter in Jamie’s city and the fluffy white stuff has yet to make an appearance, so Jamie strikes out to see why. As he ventures forth, Jamie finds himself in the world of Wintuk, an imaginary arctic land without sunlight.
No matter which Cirque du Soleil show someone sees, the reaction is almost always astonishment and awe, such is the skill and artistry of these master craftsmen.