Cirque du Soleil Alegria
Being a Cirque du Soleil newbie has more pluses than minuses.
I had never witnessed the live acrobatic, body-bending, twisting, high-flying artistry of the world-famous touring Canadian theatric troupe live before, I was curious. After all, I had only seen them like many on television.
Are all the productions that awe-inspiring and eye-popping as they are on the screen? Yes.
That was what I determined after witnessing the opening night at Cleveland’s Wolstein Center last week of Cirque’s Alegria spectacular.
For Cirque, the show is old hat. Alegria, which means joy or jubilations in Spanish, had already been performed before more than 10 million people worldwide, since its premiere back in 1994. This past May, the production, which had been done under the big top tent style, had tempted fate by moving it to the inside arena-style venues. It still had an intimacy that I imagine a tent setting would have provided.
Thus the night began in the Wolstein Center with only half of the arena being used for the show, with the back half curtained off, used for the performers preparing for the show.
An estimated crowd of only 2,000 watched the show which was billed as a 2-1/2-hour show (including intermission) but lasted shy under two hours total. But who is counting when so much action is unfolding right in front of you?
The Baroque-ish show started in the audience, as aptly named Nostalgic Old Birds meandered through the crowd greeting onlookers, as the hunch-backed, vaudevillian storytelling Fleur intro’d the show with sometimes lamentful, sometimes joyous cries of “Alegria.”
The actual arobatics, included: synchronized trapeze artists who flew nearly right overhead our seats, tossing and flipping from one trapeze to another. It definitely had my heart in my throat for an opener.
Several gymnasts sped down the straight-aways of the 17th
Century domed-shaped set with more flying through the air at breakneck speed. One performer got some uhs from the crowd for his hand-balancing on with impressive body control. He was followed by tribal fire-dancing, as two men twirled batons with flames to the beat of pulsing, congo drums.
The single-most mind-blowing performance of the night came from two young women performing the art of Mongolian contortion. The duo literally could bend their bodies in every direction possible, and at one point one bent all the way over backwards and balanced on her hand, the other doing the same contortionist moves while turning.
Actually equaling amazing was the acrobatic flyers who bounced, flipped and landed on flexible Russian bars, no more than four inches wide, never landing off the bars, but once. One performer whose’ mastery came by way of propelled himself on the inside of several circular metal hoops. He made his performance was so amazingly easy, the novelty wore thin after a few moves.
The crowd favorite of the evening though, by far, were three clowns, two of which acted out comical, child-like high-jinx, often mimicking the acrobatic moves of the main performers interspersed in-between the main acts. The clowns, barely speaking above a muffled roar, had the audience rolling. A third clown performed a dramatic act which precipitated literally tons of snow-like confetti swirling around him before it was blown like a whiteout into the on-looking floor audience.
Two female singers, dressed one in white and one in black helped to tell the story of Alegria in and a band of equally ornate street musicians weaved their music throughout the two acts of the show, performing music that evoked the sound of traveling minstrels, ranging their numbers from tango, bluesy jazz, rock to more dramatic numbers to match the given main stage performers.
For a first-time viewing of a Cirque du Soleil show, it was definitely spectacular, with the variety of performance types and overall entertainment value. It would have been even more awe-inspiring had the venue been packed and the performers could have fed more off that capacity. As the performance was larger than life, it may have felt even larger, with a larger crowd.