Once again spectacle is in the spotlight of Cirque du Soleil’s latest show.
Productions from this innovative performing company feature easy to follow right-of-passage narratives blazing with color, remarkable choreography and dazzling acrobatics, all to the beat of original music. But “Amaluna” moves in a different direction with a story line based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” Another departure is a predominantly female cast, an all female band, and a largely female creative team. All are under the stewardship of director Diane Paulus whose production of “Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess” is currently a hot ticket on Broadway. “Amaluna” assumes a world where women are in charge. Feminine input is the show’s strength, their attractiveness part of their strong and fearless warrior-like Amazon demeanor.
Director Paulus has conjured a mysterious island of charm and fascination, home to a wizard named Prospera, a daughter named Miranda and a lizard-like serpent named Cali (an abbreviation for Caliban.) The domain is governed by Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. Queen Prospera directs her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honours femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance which marks the passing of these insights and values from one generation to the next. In the wake of a storm a group of young men lands on the island, triggering an epic, emotional story of love between Prospera’s daughter and Romeo a brave young suitor. But theirs is a love that will be put to the test. The couple must face numerous demanding trials and overcome daunting setbacks before achieving mutual trust, faith and harmony.
It’s another Cirque du Soleil show which flies high with acrobatics, jaw dropping feats of strength and flexibility covered with music, dance and comedy wrapped in a two hour and fifteen minutes plot line. First timers, as well as long time Cirque fans should gush over the eleven acts that fill the program. Feats of wonder such as the Icarian Games, Watermeteors, Chinese Pole, and Manipulation are new elements — and just as extraordinary as their titles describe. Classic routines are reprised, including Aerial Straps and the Human Contortionists, and Juggling, but are embellished with fire and water that keep the performances fresh. One body bender convinces the audience that a human pretzel can exist. She adds further extreme diving in and out of a water bowl moments after twisting and contorting her body while balancing precariously on one hand about 10 feet in the air above the stage.
Audience buzz is especially loud for the Manipulation segment. Here, Prospera brings Romeo and Miranda to witness the Balance Goddess creating a world in equilibrium with a mobile made of thirteen palm leaf ribs. An ode to balance, her movements are slow, deliberate and almost meditative as she concentrates all her attention on this literally breathtaking structure. And then as she removes the smallestpiece everything disintegrates and the young couple’s trials begin.
We’ve come to expect excellence in Cirque du Soleil productions and we’re not let down with Amaluna. The collaboration between the artistic staff, backstage crew, and performers in creating the sets, the props, the costumes, makeup and performances, supply a spectacular, spellbinding, breath taking atmosphere. Amaluna opens our eyes to a world of wonder, reflecting the Bard’s dialogue for Miranda in The Tempest as she marvels: “How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in’t.”
Amaluna plays under the Grand Chapiteau at The Port Lands in Toronto through November 4th.