Sunday, September 16, 2007
My review Cirque Du Soleil's "O"
Update: Scott has this to add and it makes a great preface: "The Cirque du Soleil was started by a troupe of Montreal street performers on the premise humans were by far the most amazing animals of all so why have animal acts. There are several made-for-tv documentaries about the organization and the production of their acts. Absolutely fascinating to watch them start with a concept and then in a couple of years end up with a show. Their performers are recruited from all over the world and necessarily are tremendous athletes, but the skills which go into designing and building the set for functionality, safety, and theatrics combined; the creation of spectacular costumes which need to be flexible enough for the artists to perform but durable enough not to fall apart in a week; and the development of the routines to fit within the chosen theme are just as special and rare as the performers unique skills. When you watch it all come together you actually feel proud just to be a human being."
Last Saturday evening I saw 'O' at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I mention the Bellagio and Las Vegas in the same breath not for effect but rather to reference that Cirque du Soleil is permanently installed there and can be seen nowhere else. Hence, my trip to 'sin city' or to the alternate Disneyland universe.
By the way, the average tourist in Vegas does not dress up like James Bond or George Clooney; instead they look like a Costco shopper wearing the usual baseball cap, shorts, and tees; polos if they are trying to fake it. The people that did dress up were a welcome treat to the eyes. There is nothing like watching an elegantly dressed, mademoiselle; (In this case she was Asian), placing a $100 worth of chips all across a roulette table with no fear or anxiety whatsoever versus an overweight gentleman wearing a "Women love me, but fish fear me" tee-shirt.
My expectations were high for I paid a lot to see 'O' which included travel, lodging and rent-a-car expenses but those expectations were very much exceeded and I have no regrets whatsoever about how much money it cost. What justified that expense were the following qualities: I was amazed at the athleticism which to me was at the Olympic level. The artistic presentation which includes costume design, art direction etc was spectacular. The vocals and the music were so harmoniously aligned that it resonated with emotion. Not only was I entertained but I was inspired as well. We now live in an artistic period where art rarely inspires but rather just tickles or shocks the eye. Cirque Du Soleil's "O" surpassed that.
These are some 'O' components and aquatic disciplines: The stage itself is an amazing work of engineering and presentation which has the feel of a classic opera house. My "carpenter's eye" estimates that the stage is at least 60-feet-high and complimented above with a domed ceiling painted in a teal hue. From this ceiling an occasional actor or acrobat/athlete descends through a chrome, circular, 'chandelier.' Some of the talent dives from this height and it looks thrilling to say the least
The stage is shrouded in a very opaque, warm-red, curtain which is made of a very light fabric. This fabric is important since it plays a part in the staging of the opening and closing effects. I am thinking silk or or possibly a parachute-like material and it is quite dynamic. Literally!
To protect the musicians' instruments and electronics from the mist, smoke, and humidity, the musicians perform in a glassed off enclosure on the second floor of the theater to protect these instruments and such from potential water damage. The technical directors are located on the second floor as well but on the opposite side.
Other trivia that I learned from Wikipedia is that the stage is kept rather hot but the audience is kept rater cool. Las Vegas.com stated the water temp of the pool is 88 degrees. I suspect that this is to keep the athletes/performers protected from muscle cramps or stiffness. The pool itself contains 1.5-million-gallons which is an awesome feat for indoor pool upon a stage and it too is abrillant work of engineering. [Link]
The stage itself is sometimes a swimming pool and other times a flat, dry, stage. At different moments in the performance they combine the two states giving the illusion that performers are walking on water. The engineering and the timing of where and when the stage is positioned is extraordinarily important for safety and performance sake hence the technical direction has to b as good and as seamless as the play itself.
Often when dives are completed or routines are completed the performers disappear into the water and don't surface. Instead they are met by divers who assist them with oxygen in case they need it as they swim back stage. According to Wikipedia, every performer has to be dive certified. [Link]
The opening act was a synchronized swim with performers capable of holding their breaths for a very long time. From Wikipedia: Choreographed by Debra Brown and Olympic gold-medalist Sylvie Fréchette, the synchronized swimming team is made up of 17 world-class swimmers. [Link]
The most spectacular dives are produced by an apparatus called a Russian swing whereas divers are launched 30 feet into the air to begin their dives or at one point in the performance back and forth across the 100-foot-or-so stage in comical poses. One guy did a rapid 'fly kick with his arms at his sides and looked like a salmon swimming over a waterfall. Another diver posed sailing through the air as if he were laying down on a couch watching TV. It was both funny and fearless at the same time.
There were some routines with fire that were both stressful to watch and summarily amazing.
The clowns were wonderful too, great dancers who had great comedic timing.
When I use to go to the 3-ring circus as a kid, I would see acts setting up while the main act was performing. With 'O' that never happened, I would be transfixed on a dancer or fire act and suddenly there was a 25-foot-long boat floating in the air. "Whoa, how did that get there!" That happened to me me all the time during the performance. Link to the 'O' Website: [Link]
Next year they have a short course yards meet in Las Vegas, I may do it as an excuse to go see 'O' again. I may also see another water related circus by the creator of 'O' called Le Rêve at the Mirage. I am researching it now. Wikipedia: [Link] Le Rêve lame website: [Link]