Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Amaluna’ A Mind-Blowing Spectacle (5 Stars)
‘Amaluna’ – Directed by Diane Paulus; Presented by Cirque du Soleil at the Boston Marine Industrial Park on the Waterfront (6 Tide St.) through July 6th.
As someone who has (sadly) never attended a real circus, I wasn’t sure what a highly stylized version of one would look like when I got the opportunity to review ‘Amaluna’, Cirque du Soleil’s stunning tribute to Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. It had all of the elements that I expected from a circus (minus the abused animals) – aerial performers, jugglers, acrobats, and clowns – but it had so much more. There was a killer rock n roll band supplying the haunting score, brilliantly colored and wildly exotic costumes, and a cast of hard-bodied performers that looked like they start every day at CrossFit on their way to their day jobs – at the Ford Modeling Agency. But what it also had was something that most circuses probably don’t usually have – an actual story with a loose narrative – which was a clever device to pull together the varying dance and traditional circus elements. The blending of these components make for a beautiful and spectacular show.
Directed by the American Repertory Theater’s Diane Paulus, whose version of ‘Pippin’ was re-imagined with circus performers and won four Tony Awards, this show is a feast for the senses. I am not familiar enough with ‘The Tempest’ to tell you how ‘Amaluna’ stacks up with theatrical versions of the play (although my companion, a veteran theater goer, loved the interpretation) but I don’t think familiarity with Shakespeare is a requirement to be totally captivated by this brilliant production. The show works on so many levels – as a circus loaded with traditional circus fare (with aerial performers in lieu of trapeze artists); as a rock opera with a dense moody score that sounds like it could have been written by members of Death Cab for Cutie or The Cure; as a beautifully choreographed dance performance; as a gymnastics exhibition; and most appealingly, a love story. The cast is also heavily weighted with women performers (70 percent), from the all-female band to the gender change of Prospero to Prospera, and even the captain of the shipwrecked crew is a female playing a man. But for a show with an alleged feminist bent, it still has the sexy feel of high class burlesque show with elegantly dressed female performers as well as a shipwrecked crew that could pass as Chippendale dancers.
The show amazes right from the start, with a beautiful floating scarf in the center of the performers (which itself looks like a magic trick) and never lets go for the entire show. One exception (and my only personal fault with the show) was the presence of a pair of clowns, who, while amusing at times, often broke the mood of the story, particularly during one longish childbirth sequence. But that’s nitpicking, as there were so many brilliant circus stunts in the show that had even this cynic enraptured. The most fascinating was performed by ‘Balance Goddess’ Lili Chao, who assembled what looked to be a dinosaur torso from curiously shaped sticks, using her feet to pick up each piece and then delicately balanced each stick to create a fascinating mobile. There is also a brilliant contortion/gymnastic act by Iuliia Mykhailova (who plays Miranda) and some interesting work on what is called the ‘Chinese Pole’ by Evegny Kurkin (who plays Romeo, Miranda’s love interest, as well as some clever juggling by Viktor Kee (who plays lizard-man Cali, who loves Miranda).
This was my first time seeing a Cirque du Soleil production but it won’t be my last. I may even go back during this current run. For more information, go to: www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/amaluna/tickets/boston/offers.aspx