Tag: Cirque du Soleil

Review: Kurios (Cirque du Soleil)

Cirque du Soleil's "Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities," written and directed by Michel Laprise, runs through Sept 20 at the United Center. (photo credit: Martin Girard)           
      
Kurios

Written/Directed by Michel Laprise
United Center, 1901 W. Madison (map)
thru Sept 20 | tix: $35-$145 | more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   

August 25, 2015 | 0 Comments More

Cirque du Soleil presents “Michael Jackson: The Immortal Tour”

Bboy Hourth Sok stars in Cirque du Soleil's "Michael Jackson: The Immortal Tour," written and directed by Jamie King, music directed by Greg Phillinganes. (photo credit: OSA Images)        
      
Michael Jackson:
   The Immortal Tour

Written and Directed by Jamie King
Music Directed by Greg Phillinganes
at Sears Centre Arena, Hoffman Estates (map)
tickets: $50-$175   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets
     
         
                   Read article
     

July 1, 2014 | 0 Comments More

Review: Dralion (Cirque du Soleil)

An act from Cirque du Soleil's "Dralion" at Chicago's United Center. (photo credit: Daniel Desmarais)       
      
Dralion

Written by Gilles Ste-Croix
Directed by Guy Caron
at United Center, 1901 W. Madison (map)
thru July 1  |  tickets: $28-$80   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

June 30, 2012 | 0 Comments More

Review: Cirque Shanghai Extreme (Navy Pier)

   
Silks; Cirque Shanghai Extreme plays the Navy Pier Pepsi Skyline Stage through Sept. 5, 2011 (Labor Day). Photo credit: Sean Williams. Cirque Shanghai Extreme 

Directed by Miao Miao Chen 
Choreography by Brenda Didier 
at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand (map)
thru Sept 5  |  tickets: $15-$32  | more info

Check for half-price tickets

       Read entire review

   
July 9, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Ovo (Cirque du Soleil

  
  

Ovations for Ovo!

  
  

Ovo - Cirque du Soleil 5

 

   
Cirque du Soleil presents
   
   
Ovo
   
Written and Directed by Deborah Colker
Grand Chapiteau Tent at United Center, 1901 W. Madison (map)
through August 21  | 
tickets: $60-$130  |  more info

Reviewed by Larry Bommer

Newly prosperous in a sixth visit to the United Center parking lot, the blue-and-yellow “big top” chapiteau of the Cirque du Soleil provides a happy home for the insectivorous marvels of Ovo, a show to make you itch with delight. Writer-director Deborah Colker creates a dazzling, inventive fantasy of eight-legged lives aspiring to become circus legends and literally hit the heights. As the first female director for Cirque du Soleil, she also brings a less flamboyant, more nurturing quality to the spectacle: This “colony” is a happy place with less of the precious whimsicality that sometimes made past Cirque offerings a tad precious and arch. These disparate but beautiful bugs work and play together very well.

Barthelemy Gluminea and Charles Bradbury - OvoOvo, which means “egg” in Portuguese, is also the show’s central symbol as a giant pod (that never hatches) is protectively transported around the vast tented arena and sprawling stage. It’s watched over by Michelle Matlock’s big-mama Lady Bug, Simon Charles Bradbury as the fatuous hive operator, and cute Barthelemy Gluminea as the bumptious Foreigner who clumsily courts Lady Bug. Their comic byplay always makes sense, unlike some confusing-to-irritating clown acts. So does the inevitable audience participation that they inspire as much as invite. And always in the background insect-performers busily crawl, flirt, flutter, cavort, play, work, eat and mate, just like your favorite ant farm but much more colorfully, given Liz Vandal’s entomologically awesome costumes.

But, of course, the draw in any ecosystem are the acts, organized here by splendid species. A hunky Dragonfly (Volodymyr Hrynchenko) can balance on any curve or surface and make it look so easy you hate him. Four Ants (from Asia) use their frenzied feet to balance giant kiwi slices and corn cobs, while Nadine Louis’ “cocoon” of aerial silk lets her soar as she incubates into a butterfly. To the usual Europop backdrop, two Monarch Butterflies swing on the same strap in a dangling duo that’s probably as risky as it looks, while Tony Frebourg’s sexy Firefly juggles everything with the kind of renewable energy we all long could use.

The big finales for each act are the Scarabs Volant, a flying act from Russia that sends bipedal beetles into literal flights of fancy to a contagious mambo, and the concluding Crickets, who explode all over a Trampoline-wall, bouncing over and onto an egg-filled nest as they perform achingly acrobatic flips and somersaults.

In between we get contortionist Web-Spiders, acrosporting Fleas, Li Wei’s mesmerizing Spiderman on the Ovo - Cirque du Soleil 2slackwire, and a strange dance of Legs poking out of trap doors and suggesting almost anything.

The strangest offering is the fascinatingly face-less Creatura, Lee Brearley’s marvelous amalgam of tube worms, anemones, and fleshy Slinkies. You’d swear there were two performers inside this marvelously morphing costume creation, as singularly weird a circus novelty as you’re likely to enjoy.

At the end the creepy crawlers serve themselves a giant Banquet. But it can’t be more bounteous than the glorious extravaganza enjoyed over the last two hours, as confetti butterflies explode all over the stage. Ovations for Ovo!

   
   
Rating: ★★★★
   
   

Ovo - Cirque du Soleil 3

  
  

June 30, 2011 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: Dralion (Cirque du Soleil)

     
     

Cirque’s ‘Dralion’ a visual feast but lacks thematic arch

     
     

Cirque du Soleil's 'Dralion', now playing at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates

  
Cirque du Soleil presents
  
Dralion
  
Guided by Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix
Directed by
Guy Caron
Music composed by
Violaine Corradi
at
Sears Centre, Hoffman Estates (map)
through Jan 30  |  tickets: $33-$100  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel

Now the definition of circus in the 21st-century, Cirque du Soleil has brought millions of smiles and awe-struck looks to millions of faces. For a few nights, their 11-year-old tour of Dralion shacks up at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates before embarking on the rest of the continent. Its name coming from a mash-up of “dragon” and “lion,” this classic in the Cirque lineup touts a combination of Western and Eastern cultures. The acts are pulled from across the globe, with clowns from South America, dancers from Africa, and acrobats from the Far East. It’s a fascinating, eye-catching medley of cross-cultural pollination, and there is a lot of magic at work.

Cirque du Soleil's 'Dralion', now playing at the Sears Centre in Hoffman EstatesFor a group known for their conceptual wizardry and honest performances, however, Dralion comes across shallow. The concession stand is open the entire show. If you leave for a hot dog at any point, sure, you might miss some stunning performances, but you wouldn’t be totally lost upon reentry (did I mention that there’s free refills on popcorn and pop?!?)  Dralion would be better if it forced the audience to follow, instead of being a take-what-you-want of visual delights.

Director Guy Caron claims the show is inspired by Eastern philosophies, especially a sense of connection with nature. To be honest, I didn’t see any driving philosophy working behind-the-scenes. The four elements fire, water, earth, and wind are personified, but there isn’t any sense of journey or character ever.

It’s a shame, because Dralion contains some haunting moments. Amanda Orozco and Lorant Markocsany perform a beautiful and heart-wrenching aerial pas de deux on rich, blue silks in the second act. The ballet-like grace of the two puts one in a trance. Directly following, a large group of performers float around in a high-flying dance. Shrouded in shadow, the stage looks like a home to ghosts. Both moments take your breath away, leaving you hanging on every muscle movement.

Other times are less exciting. Three multi-lingual clowns speckle the show with a few skits here and there. Juan Carlos Bratoz, Michael Edward Hughes, and Christopher Neiman’s brand of comedy is very broad and feels forced at times, especially a bit with a fake hairpiece. The comic breaks seem like interruption.

Many of the show’s light-hearted moments really shine, too – like the chaotic hoop diving or the double-dutch insanity of the final act (see video above). Another astounding part is the bouncy antics of the trampoline jumpers, who literally bounce off the walls.

The ever-pounding orchestra, led by Stephen Poulin, gives the performers all the aural inspiration they need. The score focuses heavily on Eastern rhythms and massive amounts of percussion, but also pulls from classic rock and new age stylings. Agnes Sohier and Cristian Zabala lend their gorgeous voices and foreign tongues. For Cirque, the music score is almost as important as the visuals. The Dralion pas de deux - Cirque du Soleilattention to music direction and choreography ensure a dazzling, multi-sensory experience.

Nowadays, Cirque seems most concerned with tacking their shows onto the legends of superstar musicians, with Viva Elvis playing in Vegas and a Michael Jackson-inspired extravaganza in the works. Considering this trajectory, it’s nice to see one of the original innovative shows that propelled Cirque into the common conscience. There’s a zippy, wait-till-ya-see-this energy to the piece.

Judging from the empty rows at the Sears Centre, though, it seems like Cirque will have to keep evolving to keep audiences. The separate acts are truly amazing—Dralion really nailed down a winning cast. But the conceptual glue requires review. The show needs to dive deeper and more strongly connect to its fundamental ethos. Dralion’s biggest failing is that – possessing a more consistent, cognizant thematic arch – it could be even more remarkable and relatable. Then it would really be worth the ticket price.

  
  
Rating: ★★½
  
  

A scene from Cirque du Soleil's 'Dralion', now playing at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

 

  
  
January 28, 2011 | 0 Comments More

Review: Cirque Shanghai: Cloud 9 (at Navy Pier)

A thrilling summer show for the entire family

 

Cirque-Shanghai-Cloud-Nine010


Cirque Shangha
i and Navy Pier present
  
Cirque Shanghai: Cloud 9
  
Directed by Miao Miao Chen
at the Skyline Stage, Navy Pier (map)
thru September 6th  |  tickets: $12-$29  |  more info

reviewed by Catey Sullivan

Never mind the official calendar. If Cirque Shanghai is in residence on Navy Pier, it must be summer in the city. In residence under the armadillo-shaped tent that is the Pier’s Skyline Stage, the Chinese import is back with its roster of spectacular  human oddities and jaw-dropping feats of strength, balance and grace. Think Cirque du Soleil, minus the artsy existential clowning and plus motorcycle stunt drivers. That’s the general aesthetic that informs Cirque Shanghai: Cloud 9.

Cirque-Shanghai-Cloud-Nine001 The new show brings new acts to the stage, chief among them those motorcycles. During the kinetic Imperial Thunder, a quartet of roaring bikes and their color-coordinated riders zip around like bees inside of a metal dome that you’d swear wasn’t large enough to accommodate even one rider let alone four. Inside the Imperial Thunder dome, the riders make it look easy, flying over and around each other in a display of centrifugal force and precision racing that’s a genuine jaw-dropper. On the other end of the spectrum? The contemplative Thousand Hand Guan Yin,  a golden-tinged illustration of a goddess with – yes – a thousand hands.

Those two acts illustrate the extremes of Cloud 9, the creation of Sylvia Hase with director Miao Miao Chen and Chicago-based choreographer Brenda Didier.  Whichever performance style you prefer – ear-drum rattling roars and performers in full-body whirl at break-neck pace or new-agey strings serenely accompanying hand-dancers creating illusions with the most delicate movements of their fingertips – Cirque Shanghai delivers plenty of it.

Performed by a troupe of elite circus performers aged 15 to 25, the show is pure eye candy. There’s no subtext to contortionism, nothing to deconstruct in a display of hat juggling. That’s absolutely fine. Cloud 9 is a seasonally appropriate wonder, entertainment that screams “leave your thinking caps at home, school’s out for the summer!”

Cirque-Shanghai-Cloud-Nine011 Cirque-Shanghai-Cloud-Nine004 Cirque-Shanghai-Cloud-Nine009

That’s not to say that the 18 acts within the production are anything less than top tier. Try not to ooh and aah at the Suspended Pole Acrobats as they leap, two stories up, between perilously swaying stalks. Ditto the gleefully silly  Bicycle Platform Balance, where in nine grinning cyclists form a pedaling human pyramid atop a single bicycle. There are also strong men, hoop divers and aerial artists whose skill spinning on silks evokes acrobatic spiders flying between web strands.

The look of the production is as marvelously over-the-top as the acts. Think Liberace meets Bob Mackie meets a Bedazzler set on stun and you get a sense of the show’s visual appeal. Cirque Shanghai: Cloud 9 might not ponder the depths of the human condition, but for pure fun, it’s tough to beat.

      
     
Rating: ★★★½
   
  

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June 11, 2010 | 2 Comments More

REVIEW: Hephaestus, A Greek Circus Tale (Lookingglass)

A stunning display of physical artistry

hephaestus-7-man-pyramid

 
Lookingglass Theatre and Silverguy Entertainment presents
 
Hephaestus, A Greek Circus Tale
 
Adapted from the Greek myth by Tony Hernandez
Directed by
Tony Hernandez and Heidi Stillman
at the
Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn (map)
through May 23rd  tickets: $25-$70  |  more info

By Catey Sullivan

Move over Billy Elliot. There’s a new kid in town, and he’s flying – without wires or harnesses – just a few blocks west of where the famed coal miner’s son is hoofing the light fantastic. ‘Tis the season, apparently, for jaw-droppingly talented pre-pubescent boys. In Hephaestus, a Greek Mythology Circus Tale, ninth-generation 39-iris7 circus performer Fabio Anastasini plays a show-stopping role as the Lookingglass/Silver Guy telling of the Greek myth biography of the God of the Forge unfurls. Flipping and flying so fast he’s a centrifugal blur while his partner (and older brother) flings him skyward on the soles of his feet, Fabio is a dazzling highlight in a series of dazzlers that comprise Hephaestus’ 90 breathtaking minutes.

Imagine the very best acts of Cirque du Soleil, played out in a space so small you could reach out and grab the acrobats as they fly by. (Don’t even think about it.) Oh – and there’s no net. Also – nobody is wearing a harness or any sort of other safety rigging. When a seven-person human pyramid makes its way across the high wire during the show’s climactic finale, it’s as if all the oxygen has been sucked out of the Goodman’s tiny Owen Theatre. You can feel the audience collectively holding its breath. Cell phone rings aren’t just an aggravation during this show – they pose a very real danger. Knock wood – were any of the aerialists to lose their concentration during Hephaestus, the results could be deadly.

Not that there’s much chance of that. Tony Hernandez’ version of myth is enacted by the world’s elite circus performers, Flying Wallendas among them. These aren’t part-time buskers on summer break. They’re the best wire-walkers, acrobats, contortionists and stunt men and women on the planet. They’d be thrilling to watch 001731 under any circumstances. But in the intimate space of the Owen, they’re simply staggering. Get a seat in the third level of the courtyard space, and you’ll find yourself going eyeball-to-eyeball with that mind-blowing pyramid that ends the show. And prior to that, with Ares (Almas Miermanov) the God of War, as played by an impossibly chiseled gymnast doing his routine several stories up on the ends of furls of silk.

Since Hernandez (who also plays the title role with great emotional impact) debuted Hephaestus in 2005, he has tweaked it slightly. Aphrodite has lost her gleaming hula hoops and turned into a toe-dancing contortionist. A two-man hand-balancing act is now a single, silvery, spooky machine-man pulled by Hephaestus from the fires of his desert island forge. Then there’s the addition of the Anastasini brothers, who also start life as liquid metal beings formed by Hephaestus from molten metal. They’re a thrilling improvement.

The show’s primary flaw remains its narrative. The adaptation of Hephaestus’ myth is a flimsy coathanger draped in circus garments so richly spectacular you tend to first forgive and then forget that the myth even matters. Still, the individual acts could be put into the service of any story, and don’t feel especially integral to the story of Hephaestus.

Even so, there are moments when the story resonates powerfully. When his mother hurls Hephaestus from Mount Olympus, the fall is a gasp-inducing triumph of stagecraft and stuntwork. It’s a signature Lookingglass moment – the sort of indelible physical storytelling that nobody does better. The towering (Literally towering. There are drummers all the way up to the theater’s scaffolding) , immersive percussion makes you feel as if you are in a grand canyon echoing with drums, surrounded by an urgent, primal beat that drowns everything else out but the pure, raw, power of rhythm.

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As Hephaestus’ mother Hera, Lijana Wallenda Hernandez is an ethereal stunner, spinning high above the audience in a silver hoop. When Hephaestus falls to the bottom of an enchanted sea, the theater turns into a murky green eden of nymphs and bubbles hovering with liquid grace everywhere you turn. It’s an underwater paradise almost enough to make you weep at its watery, calming beauty.

And lest you discount that 7-person pyramid as just another circus stunt: Wallenda and Hernandez were among the artists who pioneered the act, and got it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1998. In other words, it’s a form of dangerous beauty that they actually invented. It was largely considered impossible before they did it. Watching Hephaestus, much of it seems impossible. The artistry is just that stunning.

 
Rating: ★★★½
 

NOTE: Many of these pictures were taken from previous years’ performances.

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April 18, 2010 | 4 Comments More