Cirque du Soleil presents its new show inspired by Mexico: LUZIA in Toronto’s Port Lands
This hasn’t been a great year for Cirque du Soleil. I was terribly disappointed with the two shows they released earlier in 2016: their James Cameron Avatar spin-off TORUK which I found shamelessly commercial and utterly boring, and their misguided attempt at a Broadway musical, Paramour, which was savaged by the critics in New York.
When the company strays too far outside its idiom of artfully-staged theatrical circus shows, especially into the realm of narrative-driven, script-based shows, the results often fall short and fail to capture the magic and creativity on which the company built its name. However, their big top shows are the bonafide, quintessential Cirque du Soleil experience and I’m happy to report that their newest show, LUZIA, is a return to form for the company.
The show is subtitled “A waking dream of Mexico” and this is the first time the company has themed a show so tightly around a specific country. I had some trepidation going in that I was about to see a pastiche of Mexican clichés: sombreros, mariachi, Day of the Dead sugar skulls, design elements derivative of Aztec and Mayan art, but by and large, Cirque has succeeded in inventing a world inspired by Mexican culture by riffing on it to create something new, delightful and entirely unexpected.
LUZIA is a Mexico of fantasy, at once novel and familiar. Composer Simon Carpentier’s musical score is inflected with the rhythms and instruments of Mexico but at the same time it sounds new and contemporary. Eugenio Caballero’s set design features a large disc floating in the background that suggests a Mayan calendar in abstract, while Giovanna Buzzi’s costume designs include playful nods to the country; she styles a performer on a giant swing as a Mexican wrestler and the pole dancers wear Frida Kahlo-style floral crowns.
Director Daniele Finzi Pasca, has a beautiful poetic style and is gifted at creating theatrical tableaux featuring gorgeous imagery. The scenes in LUZIA ooze with beauty and charm.
One of the show’s opening images is a great example; a woman in a monarch butterfly patterned sundress (Shelli Epstein) sprints through a field of bright orange Mexican marigolds (with the help of a treadmill), giant fabric butterfly wings flutter at her sides as a life-sized horse puppet gallops behind her. The stage slowly revolves revealing the scene from all angles. It all just looks so gorgeous.
Later in the show two performers (Angelica Bongiovonni and Rachel Salzman) spin around the stage in Cyr wheels as a third artist (Emily Tucker) flies overhead on a single point trapeze. When rain starts to fall from the flies the three continue to spin and fly while getting drenched in the unexpected downpour.
Water also helps to create the beautiful imagery during Benjamin Courtenay’s aerial straps act. The sinewy, long-haired aerialist repeatedly flips and spins into an onstage pool of water (representing a cenote).
I also liked how Cirque innovated familiar circus acts and presents them in new and unexpected ways in this show. Hoop diving is a discipline that has been around in the traditional Chinese circus for centuries but we’ve never seen it performed by acrobats launched from treadmills.
Chinese poles, another discipline from the traditional Chinese circus where acrobats climb and hang from flexible upright poles, is combined with pole dancing, the one-time strip club feature recently turned competitive fitness craze, in a clever mix of the old and the new.
Contortionist Aleksei Goloborodko, will make you drop your jaw and squirm in your seat as he bends his body in half backward and ties himself into knots. He is staggeringly flexible even by Cirque du Soleil standards.
Eric Fool Koller performs clown interludes between the acrobatic acts. While these scenes aren’t exactly uproariously funny they are cute and charming and, more importantly, they don’t they overstay their welcome to the point where they start to grate as so often happens in other Cirque shows.
LUZIA is everything we’ve come to expect from Cirque du Soleil. With its solid collection of acrobatic acts and gorgeous imagery this Mexico of fantasy is well worth a visit.
- Cirque du Soleil’s LUZIA is playing under the white and gold big top in Toronto’s Port Lands at 51 Commissioners Street (corner of Cherry Street) through October 16, 2016
- Shows run Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays at 4:30 p.m. and Sundays at 1:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. No performances on Mondays. As it may vary, please visit cirquedusoleil.com/luzia for the detailed show schedule.
- Regular tickets $39 to $135 plus service charges. Premium and VIP packages available. See website for details.
- Tickets are available at the on-site box office or visit cirquedusoleil.com/luzia
Photo credit : Laurence Labat / Costumes: Giovanna Buzzi / 2016 Cirque du Soleil