Local Arts Reviews


Alegría: The Impossible Before Your Eyes

Robert Mueller Airport, through May 18

Running Time: 2 hrs, 30 min

There's always something special about going to the circus, an excitement at stepping into an unknown world, a realm of the unexpected, the bizarre, the wondrous. And no matter your anticipation, when the big top comes into view, that sense of thrill just explodes. Rare are those occasions when the circus sets up camp in some unfamiliar, or semifamiliar, part of town. It's as if a meteor had landed, causing a consternation of curiosity -- you must visit it. The traveling circus brings an otherworldly quality to town -- its tent a formerly unknown range of mountains; within, music and lights and ropes and poles and all manner of colorful characters and performers. When the visiting circus is Cirque du Soleil, that feeling of otherworldliness is practically incalculable; Cirque du Soleil brings to athletic, spellbinding performances a genius of creativity unlike anything you've seen at the circus, turning a night under the big top into a magical exploration of a world of intrigue and mystery, grace and daring. And joy.

Cirque du Soleil is, ultimately, more a theatre spectacle than a circus -- at the circus there can be a randomness to the acts, a lack of a focal point. Not so with Cirque du Soleil. Director Franco Dragone has honed impeccable precision from the performers -- acrobats, aerial artists, clowns, contortionists, and more -- all under Cirque du Soleil's Grand Chapiteau. It is incredible. Breathtaking. At a certain point, words don't do it justice. A woman nearby only repeated, all night long, "Oh my god!" A joyful laughter burst from the audience as it glimpsed the impossible right before its eyes.

It would be unfair to single out any one act, and nothing should be given away as to the marvels that await should you step into that spectacular world. Know that Alegría has it all: trapeze artists, tumblers, leapers and flyers, contortionists, a fire juggler, and an old-style strongman. It has Cirque du Soleil's trademark live music and singing to support the acts and a trio of clowns that brings a zaniness and occasional melancholy to the night. Everyone is costumed exquisitely by Dominique Lemieux in a twisted baroque style. The set by Michel Crête sweeps down from the musicians' platform at the back to the wide-open circular stage and includes a dark, crownlike upper level on which performers meander or perch. And typical of a Cirque du Soleil event, in addition to the high-flying artists is a group of inhabitants, twisted and grotesque, helping and hindering, sometimes becoming entangled in the gymnastics under way, other times watching from the darker recesses of the room.

Throughout Alegría are images of birds, some explicit, like the feathered nymphs, the bedraggled black be-stilted crone, or the circling sculptures as you enter the Grand Chapiteau; some revealed in the skill and grace of the artists soaring overhead or flying straight at you on the stage. Bird sounds fill the air. Everywhere is the potential for flight.

More than one person has remarked to me that the prices for this event are pretty high, but if you've gone to a major rock concert or even a local musical lately, you can afford a ticket to this once-in-a-lifetime event. In our own back yard has landed this mysterious, brilliant, exuberant, joyful vision of another world. Fly to it before it disappears.

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Alegría, Cirque du Soleil, Franco Dragone, Dominique Lemieux, Michel Crête

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