Cirque due Soleil’s Amaluna Leases a Tempest Force of Female Power
By: Ellis Nassour
Cirque du Soleil’s iconic blue and yellow chapeau [big top tent] has risen adjacent to Citi Field in Queens, and the curtain has risen on Tony and Drama Desk-winning director Diane Paulus’ Amaluna, which is set to run through May 18.
Cirque had a huge success last year with Totem, its dazzlingly colorful show that offered a bit of a different twist on the shows of the cirque that’s not a circus. So why not bring in Paulus, with her opera background, her theatrical work as artistic director of Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), and red-hot success on Broadway with her award-winning revivals of Hair, Porgy and Bess, and Pippin?
This all-new [in theme, anyway] production, deeply rooted in theater, breaks new ground for CduS in that the cast is 70% female, including a most-accomplished female rock band under the direction of Janine de Lorenzo.
Paulus has created a show with creative director Fernand Rainville that draws force from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Greek and Norse mythology. You can depend on dazzling costumes [by Mérédith Caron], interesting but often weird character incarnations [such as Amaluna’s half human/half peacocks], whimsy, and always loads of enchantment from cirque-themed productions.
Amaluna goes a step further, with characters such as Queen Prospera [instead of the Bard’s Duke; Julie McInnes], who possesses magical powers; daughter Miranda [Juliia Mykhailova]; lovelorn Romeo [a stand-in, no doubt for Ferdinand; Edouard Doye or Evgeny Kurkin], whose quest it is to marry Miranda; and Cali(ban) [Victor Kee], now half lizard/half human.
There’s plenty of intrigue and thunder and lightning on Amaluna, a mysterious island governed by goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon, where Prospera "directs her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honors femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance – and the passing on of these insights and values from one generation to the next. Okay, but…isn’t there always a but? In a production as big as this, sometimes the story loses focus – especially for those not familiar with The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s most fascinating, wildly adventurous, and romantic tragicomedies, or the imagery of The Magic Flute.
However, being frank, who actually goes to Cirque shows for the theme and a story? They want the immersive environment of Felliniesque spectacle, outrageous make-up, an array of wooly characters, the always eccentric musical score, and the sound of the singers [because most of the time you really can’t understand the created language; thankfully, not quite the usual challenge in Amaluna as in other shows], and the best acrobats from around the world – the U.S. and Canada, Australia, China, Colombia, Finland, France, Mongolia, Russia, Sweden, the U.K., and the Ukraine.
And that’s what makes this stunningly-designed and magnificently-lighted production rise to some exciting highs. From these "highs" descend la Desse de la Luna [Moon Goddess, the glamorous and evidently not afraid of heights Andréanne Nadeau], who, along with other artists, emerge from the staging platform, with its revolving apparati, at the very apex of the tent.
Two of the best acts in the show: astounding teeterboard hijinks and antics from a six-man troupe of "Castaways" who attempt to top each other with double and triple somersaults and, certainly not to be outdone, a contingent of eight "Amazons" use uneven bars to launch into formidable flightThere are amazing people-balancing Asians dangerously swirling water meteors; aerial ballets on leather strap; Cali, who miraculously becomes a wizard juggling dozens of ball that fall from "the sky" in such tight precision that they land in his hands; Romero’s ballet-like work on the Chinese pole; and a trio of drop-dead-gorgeous Valkyries [borrowed from Wagner] who stun with their mastery of flight.
Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna has a variety of price packages based on seat locations: $55/$70/$80; seniors, 65 and over and students, 13 and over (with I.D.), $50/$65/$75; and children, two-12, $45/$60/$70. Visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna for these and Family Packs of four tickets ($230), the VIP Experience (beginning at $270 for adults/$250 for accompanied children), and the Backstage Experience ($495). In addition, there are details on transportation options [directions by car, with $22 parking; or via MTA #7 from Times Square]. Due to baseball season at Citi Field, show dates and times vary.