— Juggling. Photo credit : Laurence Labat. Costume credit : Mérédith Caron.
Cirque du Soleil makes a welcome return to Vancouver with a new show that is in many ways as good as any of theirs that have played here previously. Amaluna is also an attractive holiday alternative if you’re looking for great entertainment sans Christmas theme.
Thankfully, Amaluna doesn’t spend a lot of time setting up its story, which is almost always an oblique, flimsy and redundant component of the Cirque experience. And it spends less time on the mostly lame clown act than previous Cirque shows, for which I am immensely grateful.
Amaluna looks a little like a Shakespearean hybrid, with young lovers on a Tempest-like island and characters named Prospera (Julie McInnes, a female Prospero who oversees the action, plays multiple instruments and sings), Miranda (IuIiia Mykhailova—more on her in a moment) and Romeo (Suren Bozyan). There’s also a wonderful lizard named Cali (Viktor Kee), who morphs into an astonishing juggler, and a Moon Goddess (Marie-Michelle Faber) who sings while doing amazing things on a hanging ring.
The design is beautiful as usual, with peacock-like colours of translucent blues and greens dominating the oval stage, and a live band that plays a driving, hard-rock score, different from Cirque’s usual ethereal world-music.
Let’s face it, though: you go to Cirque du Soleil for the acrobatics, which are unmatched by any shows in the world. Amaluna opens with a pretty cool unicycle duo, and the first act also includes a couple who fly around on straps and a beautiful dance by Amy McClendon. But the highlights of the first half of the evening are a group of Chinese acrobats who twirl ropes around their heads with lights at both ends as they do those amazing things with their bodies; a phenomenal routine of eight women on uneven bars; and the highlight of Amaluna, the aforementioned Iuliia Mykhailova diving in and out of a large teacup full of water while twisting her body into impossible shapes. Utterly thrilling.
The second act is actually slightly anticlimactic. First up is the most athletically spectacular act of the evening, which would usually conclude a Cirque show, seven men using a teeterboard to flip each other VERY high into the air. Lara Jacobs then changes the pace with a hypnotic balancing act that holds the capacity crowd enthralled and silent for maybe ten minutes. Then two men and two women walk tightropes, the women stealing the show as one walks en pointe in toe shoes and the other walks it in high heels. Viktor Kee’s juggling and three people on straps flying across the stage and over the crowd ends the evening.
Amaluna is pricier than anything else in town—but the Cirque experience is unique, and I seriously doubt that anyone will feel that they didn’t get their money’s worth after an evening under the striped tent.