Cirque du Soleil returns with their classic show Alegría updated and revamped
Seeing Cirque du Soleil live has been on my bucket list ever since I was mesmerized by the TV ads for their then-new and ground-breaking show Alegría in 1994. Sadly, my parents were musical theatre people and not really circus people so they declined my persistent requests for tickets. When I was finally setting off on Thursday night to see the show’s 2019 re-imagining, Alegría in a New Light, a quarter century from its debut, I was struck with a moment of panic. After 25 years of anticipation, was there any chance it would live up to my expectations? Thankfully Alegría in a New Light is absolutely magical and surpassed more than half a lifetime of expectations.
Cirque du Soleil’s style is quite apart from the elephant and funny clown car show we associate with the circus. Picture Commedia dell’arte stepping out of the pages of the history books and coming to life in vivid colour on the 21st Century stage. In addition to redefining the art of spectacle, Alegría’s acts are more like movements of a story and the overall effect leaves the audience much more emotionally changed than your average circus. Alegría is Spanish for ‘joy’ and while the piece takes us through quite a range of human emotions, I definitely walked out of the stunning Big Top feeling quite joyful.
Every element of the production, the jaw dropping acts, the music, the costumes, the set, the props and the lighting design comes together in the most harmonious and elegant way. It is truly a total work of art. The show reads like choreographer Émilie Therrien and composer René Dupéré are telepathically linked. Every precise gesture and movement is married to the notes of the music. The acts would not be the same without the music and the music on its own, while stunning, just is not quite the same without the acts.
Everything that happens at Alegría is part of the show. The equipment is changed by performers and done with dramatic flair. Clowns come out to warm up the crowd and review theatre etiquette, complete with accordion playing the famous Telus default ring tone. Much of the production’s story of hope and resilience is told through clowning between each act. The clowns are funny, but also much more. They are the social commentators and mirrors for our own emotions.
I honestly have no words to describe the wondrousness of the acts. I sat in literal open-mouthed awe throughout the entire performance. There are synchronized trapeze artists (Roxane Gilliand & Nicolai Kuntz), a magnificently toned and lithe fire-knife dancer with a smile that lights up the room (Lisiate Tuione Tovo). There is also a woman doing impossible things with hula hoops, people vaulting on poles, flying through the air and spinning inside wheels at dizzying speed. It appears that most of the cast is part bird, which seems the only plausible explanation for the effortless-looking, gravity-defying stunts. There was also a contortion act that looked like ballet on a steroid-acid cocktail. In place of the traditional ringmaster, the pageantry is led by Mr. Fleur (Eric Davis) a magician, madman and would-be king.
Two magnificent singers, one representing light (Irene Ruiz Martin), the other shadow (Virginia Garcia Alvez) and live musicians accompany the show throughout. I’m sure this was a real nuisance for the person beside me, but I couldn’t help but sing along with the beautiful title track during the show’s finale. I remembered it well from many listens to the soundtrack CD I got as a consolation prize for not being able to see the show in ’94.
The costumes (Dominique Lemeiux) are an integral part of the visual feast. Rich colours, textured fabrics, glitter, plumage and striking masks elevate the physical feats into the magical experience that is beloved by audiences the world over.
In a nutshell, I think anyone who is not enchanted with Alegría in a New Light must be dead inside. Join in the revelry under the magnificent Big Top while it is in Toronto.
- Alegría in a New Light is playing until November 24, 2019 Under the Big Top, Ontario Place (955 Lake Shore Blvd W, Toronto, ON)
- Show times are 8 PM, Tuesday to Sunday with additional matinees at 12:30 PM or 4:30 PM on Saturdays and Sundays. The house is dark on Mondays and some Tuesdays.
- Regular tickets start at $70.75. There is a 30% discount for children and 20% discount on family packs.
- Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 1 877-924-7783.
Photo of Jonathan Morin provided by Company