Amaluna reconfirms Cirque's national treasure status

Cirque du Soleil broadens its appeal

Cirque Du Soleil: Amaluna

At the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) at Concord Pacific Place until Jan. 13

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Cirque meets Shakespeare in Amaluna, the Quebec-based companys latest extravaganza under the big blue and yellow Big Top on Pacific Boulevard. The mistress of ceremonies is Prospera (Julie McInnes). Washed ashore with a group of young sailors on the island of Amaluna where Prospera reigns is Romeo (Suren Bozyan) who sees and falls in love with Miranda (Iuliia Mykhailova), Prosperas beautiful daughter. Jealously keeping the young lovers apart is Cali, a reptilian monster (Viktor Kee). Sounds a lot like The Tempest.

As Miranda and Romeo struggle to be together, they meet obstacles and entertainments that form the content of the show and that vary from tiny Asian performers spinning water-meteors (glowing water-filled globes-on-a-rope) while tumbling and spinning, through tightwire walkers, unicyclists and young women with a lot of attitude on the uneven bars. Miranda takes a dip in a huge glass water-filled bowl, discovering her own physicality and expressing her sinuous sexuality as she performs a challenging hand-balancing routine before diving and snaking through the water, according to the press release. When Romeo joins her in the water its a case of love-in-a-bowl.

While the music is thunderous, there is one act that is done in almost complete silence. Prospera sits quietly on one side, Miranda on the other as they watch the Balance Goddess (Lara Jacobs) create a huge mobile of 13 four-metre long palm leaf ribs. The audience, almost 2,600 strong, scarcely breathes as Jacobs picks the fronds up off the floor and so slowly, so carefully picks them up one at a time with her toes or her fingers and positions each one into a long, floating, arrow-shaped structure.

Not that Cirque du Soleil needs it justifiably enjoying worldwide acclaim but it looks like some changes have been made in their usual programming to broaden the companys appeal. With electric guitars putting out big sound, the soundscape is less operatic and more like a rock concert than most Cirque shows. The performers are 75 per cent female; the musicians 100 per cent female. And it has a very strong narrative a love story. So although Amaluna still appeals to children and adults, it looks like an effort is being made to draw in the teens, 20s and 30s set and especially women. Just another shrewd move from a company famous for being savvy. And all from humble beginnings in small-town Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec in 1984.

Amaluna, a combination of ama (mother in many languages) and luna (moon), calls forth all the superlatives in the book: amazing, awesome, breathtaking, kaleidoscopic and fantastic. Prepare to have your senses soar into overload. The costumes, as usual, are fabulous and, in keeping with the younger, hipper look, incorporate some denim-looking fabrics. Romeo and his cohorts perform in what looks like stressed and ripped denim but still spandex and form-fitting. Their teeterboard act full of bravado and one-upmanship is one of Amalunas highlights.

Of course there are clowns; the romance between Romeos man servant and Mirandas childhood nurse parodies the romance between Romeo and Miranda. The Nurse, brightly dressed in layers of yellow and orange and wearing an outrageous wig of bright red curls, is a real crowd-pleaser as she warms the audience up at the beginning of the show.

The highlight of Amaluna is charismatic Viktor Kee as Cali. Wearing a lizard-like costume, he whips a long, scaled tail back and forth as he insinuates his reptilian way into all of the action. Eventually shedding the tail, he juggles with absolute confidence an increasing number of balls that fall from high up in the tent.

What more can one say about Cirque except to say its wonderful, a national treasure.

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