By Lauren Yarger
Cirque du Soleil ‘s latest tour is Varekai, which recently stopped at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn (where I saw the show on which this review is based.).
After 11 years of touring the world under the blue and yellow Big Top, Varekai began a new adventure this past December touring the world in arenas worldwide and in some markets never visited before.
What’s It All About?
Well, as is the case with so many of Cirque’s shows, it is hard to know. I couldn’t catch the thread of the story, or understand the lyrics. Here’s what the show says it is about:
Deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano, exists an extraordinary world¾a world where something else is possible. A world called Varekai. The sky lets go a solitary young man, and the story of Varekai begins. Parachuted into the shadows of a magical forest, a kaleidoscopic world imbued with fantastical creatures, a young man takes flight in an adventure both absurd and extraordinary. On this day at the edge of time, in this place of pure and undiluted possibility, begins an inspired incantation to a life rediscovered and to a newly found wonder in the mysteries of the world and the mind.
The word Varekai (pronounced ver·ay·’kie) means "wherever" in the Romany language of the gypsies¾the universal wanderers. Directed by Dominic Champagne, this production pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition, and to those who quest with infinite passion along the path that leads to Varekai.
What Are the Highlights?
It’s Cirque du Soleil, so you are sure to be entertained, even if you aren’t following the plot. Colorful costuming (designed by Eiko Ishioka), driving music (composed and musical directed by Violaine Corradi) and choreography by Michael Montanaro and Bill Shannon (with acrobatic performances designed by André Simard) create a vibrant, mystical world where winged men and odd reptilian creatures play and do everything from fly, juggle, balance, and contort.
There also are a pair of clowns, one male and one female (the act is created by Cahal McCrystal), who entertain. I am not a huge fan of the clowns, who often target members of the audience for humor, but one number performed to "Ne Me Quitte Pas" was particularly well done and so amusing that I found myself laughing out loud at clowns at the circus (believe me, this is not a normal thing).
The finale, "Russian Swing" (pictured above) is the kind of breath-taking, flying and leaping act that has Cirque audiences on the edge of their seats, a gasp away from amazement.
What Are the Lowlights?
On a scale of 1-10 in the world of Cirque du Soleil Shows, with O in Vegas being a 10 (well, actually more like a 12) and Banana Shpeelbeing a 1 (and that might be generous), this one ranks in at about a 5.5. It’s interesting and entertaining, but doesn’t include the amazing acts we’ve come to expect. And there’s just no easy way to figure out what is supposed to be going on.
I thought a white winged man who fell to earth might be Adam. Then I thought maybe it was Adam’s fall from grace, because a little man dressed in black with a light bulb on his head seemed to be devil-like. Press materials later informed me, however, that the man with the wings was Icarus — "Innocent and vulnerable, he finds himself wounded in an unknown world. His desire to live and overcome his fears will drive him to new heights and an eventual rebrirth." Really, now….
The amphibian-like creature to whom I referred in my notes as "webbed lady," apparently is "The Betrothed" — " An exotic creature who enraptures Icarus with her sensual beauty. She will be his guiding light and he, in turn, will be the catalyst for her metamorphosis." OK, webbed and sensual beauty don’t usually occupy the same sentence in my world….
And the light bulb guy wasn’t the devil, but The Guide — "Weathered by the sun of many centuries, he’s like a kindly, fragile great-grandfather-a wise old man whose mission is to inspire and bring about change." Totally missed that.
But it’s Cirque. You don’t need to get it. Just sit back and enjoy.
Cirque du Soleil
From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil is a major Québec-based organization providing high-quality artistic entertainment. The company has 5,000 employees, including more than 1,300 artists from more than 50 different countries.
Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to more than 100 million spectators in more than 300 cities in over forty countries on six continents. For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visitwww.cirquedusoleil.com.
Visit http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/varekai/default.aspx to find information about the tour.
The Walstein Center, Cleveland
Erie, PA Insurance Arena
Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, NJ
Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Photo: Rick Diamond. Costume credit: Eiko Ishioka