Tag: Guy Laliberte
Cirque’s ‘Dralion’ a visual feast but lacks thematic arch
|Cirque du Soleil presents|
|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.
For 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 attention 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.
Stars from Broadway’s Jersey Boys and Wicked join cast
Playing at the Chicago Theatre from November 19 – January 3
Stars from Broadway’s Jersey Boys and Wicked will join the distinctive cast of comedic and dance talent in the brand new theatrical production, Banana Shpeel, presented by Cirque du Soleil and MSG Entertainment. Banana Shpeel begins performances at The Chicago Theatre on November 19, with an official Opening Night on Wednesday, December 2. The limited Chicago engagement concludes January 3, 2010, and Banana Shpeel debuts in New York at The Beacon Theatre in February 2010.
Michael Longoria, who starred as Frankie Valli in the Broadway production of Jersey Boys, will portray Emmett, an innocent and romantic young actor, while Annaleigh Ashford, who starred as Glinda in Wicked on Broadway and in Chicago, portrays Emmett’s love interest Katie, and Remo Airaldi, a prolific resident company member of Boston’s acclaimed American Repertory Theater, portrays Schmelky, a cruel and irritable theater producer. Joining them is an international crew of comedic actors: Claudio Carneiro (Brazil), Daniel Passer (U.S.), Patrick de Valette (France), Gordon White (Canada), and Wayne Wilson (U.S.). In keeping with Cirque du Soleil’s unique and diverse performers, global talents showcased in Banana Shpeel include Russian hand balancer Dmitry Bulkin, Vietnamese juggler Tuan Le, Spanish foot juggler Vanessa Alvarez, and the American sister-brother tap dance duo, Joseph and Josette Wiggan. Completing the cast is a talented ensemble comprised of 10 “triple threats”: singer-actor-dancers Robyn Baltzer, Alex Ellis, Adrienne Jean Fisher, DeWitt Fleming Jr., Luke Hawkins, Kathleen Hennessey, Adrienne Reid, Anthony J. Russo, Melissa Schott, and Steven T. Williams.
Under the direction of Band Leader Robert Cookman, the Banana Shpeel original score is performed live on stage by Roland Barber (trombone), Bobby Brennan (bass), James Campagnola (multi-instrumental), Iohann Laliberté (drums), Jean-François Ouellet (saxophone), Peter Sachon (cello) and Scott Steen (trumpet).
Banana Shpeel is a roller-coaster mix of styles that blends comedy with tap, hip hop, eccentric dance and slapstick, all linked by a narrative that ignites a succession of wacky adventures. This is not circus, or a musical or a variety show, or even vaudeville. It is Banana Shpeel!
Synopsis: Propelled by crazy humor and intense choreography, Banana Shpeel plunges us into the world of Schmelky, who dangles fame and fortune in front of Emmett, who has come to audition for him. Emmett soon finds himself trapped in a flamboyant, anarchic world where Schmelky sows terror and reigns supreme. Emmett falls in love with the beautiful Katie and meets a bunch of absurd characters, including the strange Banana Man. But who is this mysterious Banana Man and how can Emmett escape the clutches of Schmelky and his henchmen?
The Creative Team
The Banana Shpeel Creative Team includes: Artistic Guides Guy Laliberté (Cirque du Soleil Founder) and Gilles Ste-Croix; Writer and Director David Shiner; Director of Creation Serge Roy; Composer and Musical Director Jean-François Côté; Comic Act Designer Stefan Haves; Choreographer Jared Grimes; Costume Designer Dominique Lemieux; Set Designer and Props Co-Designer Patricia Ruel; Props Co-Designer Jasmine Catudal; Lighting Designer Bruno Rafie; Sound Designer Harvey Robitaille; and Make-up Designer Eleni Uranis.
Banana Shpeel writer and director David Shiner started out as a mime in Paris. His career took off in 1984 when he was discovered at the renowned circus festival Cirque de Demain. Shiner later teamed up with Bill Irwin to create the wordless two-man show Fool Moon, which played from 1992 to 1999, including three Broadway runs. Fool Moon picked up numerous prizes, including a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award. In 2007, Shiner directed his first Cirque du Soleil production, the big top touring show KOOZA.
Banana Shpeel performs from November 19, 2009 through January 3, 2010 at The Chicago Theatre
Tickets are available now for all performances and can be purchased at www.cirquedusoleil.com or www.thechicagotheatre.com or by calling 1-800-745-3000. Regular ticket prices range from $23 to $98, with limited Premium and Tapis Rouge VIP Experience tickets also available. Discounts are available for groups of 20 or more, by calling 1-866-6-CIRQUE (1-866-624-7783).
Guy Laliberte accused of hosting wild orgies; entertained guests with his flexible performers
Once a penniless street-performer, Guy Laliberté has since created some of the most breath-taking (and lucrative) franchises in the world, including 6 separate shows alone in Las Vegas. But now he’s involved in a legal spat regarding alleged colorful acrobatic “moves” that take place in his bedroom.
Laliberté has announced plans to sue the publishers of an unauthorized biography which depicts him as a bed-hopping scoundrel with an inexhaustible appetite for sex, drugs, and a rock and roll lifestyle. (aside: sounds like fun to me! LOL)
These allegations come from the influential Montreal news magazine Macleans, who published a revelatory extract from the muck-raking new book, entitled The Fabulous Story of the Creator of the Cirque du Soleil, which details some of the famously decadent parties that Mr Laliberté financed with the proceeds of his business empire, which currently controls 18 shows in dozens of countries, and supports almost 4,000 employees, including hundreds of the world’s most talented dancers and acrobats.
During the parties, global business leaders, politicians, and Hollywood stars were entertained by Cirque du Soleil performers, and provided with millions of dollars of fine food and wine. Author Ian Halperin, who quotes dozens of former guests, details heroic displays of debauchery. "Everything you wanted was available at Guy’s parties," said Myra Jones, a Milan-based fashion model who attended several of the events. "Drugs, the best music spun by famous DJs flown in from Europe and the USA, and the wildest sex you could ever imagine."
The book claims that Laliberté’s assistants invited busloads of prostitutes from his native Montreal to the parties, which were attended by the likes of Robert DeNiro and Sir Paul McCartney. Mere B-list guests were required to sign a confidentiality agreement before attending.
Mr Laliberté has taken exception to the claims. This week, he wrote to Transit Publishing, which released the book, denying several key allegations made in the book and demanding that it is immediately withdrawn from stores. Macleans has also been issued with a legal letter.
However Mr Halperin yesterday returned fire, with interest. "We intend to fight this vigorously and take this as a gross infringement on freedom of the press," he told the New York Post. "Everything in my book is true and can easily be proven. If he continues to harass me, I will launch a slander suit."
Whatever the eventual outcome, the row comes at an inconvenient time for Mr Laliberté, who is supposed to be focused on training for a forthcoming space flight, for which he has paid a Russian company $35-million