The Cirque du Soleil is known for putting on ambitious shows. With Kurios — Cabinet of curiosities, it plans to transport its audiences to a whole new world populated with fantastic characters.
OK, not literally. But director Michel Laprise isn't just looking to entertain. He wants people to go home with plenty of food for thought about creativity and how it can be used to see life's possibilities.
"We want the show to live in people's hearts, even after the show."
Kurios will premiere in Montreal's Old Port on April 24 and then head to Quebec City on July 24 and Toronto on Aug. 28.
It takes place under what appears to be a Big Top circus tent that harks back to the 19th century, an era Laprise described as a golden age because of its rapid societal and technological advancement.
"It was a phenomenal time for humanity," Laprise said. "People were travelling, they were dreaming of other worlds."
He pointed out that people's lives were changing through the use of electricity, distances were shrinking as rail travel expanded and became faster, and people were able to communicate with each other quickly through the invention of the telegraph.
"People were very enthusiastic and they had the feeling that everything is possible," he said, adding he wants audiences to believe when they leave the show that possibilities are limitless for them too.
"If people take that from our show, that everything in life, with your imagination, can become more interesting, can bring you closer to another person, then I think we'll have succeeded."
He said he feels people are now living in an era with an abundance of possibilities, despite the various problems that plague society.
Laprise, who wouldn't give out details of what audiences might see when the show opens, described Kurios as "a microcosm."
"It's the different elements that compose a world."
'It's not only a stage...You're inside somebody's mind. It's kind of crazy' - set designer Stephane Roy
Set designer Stephane Roy said there are plenty of psychological aspects to the show, which features a giant hand among its props. There are also elements of the popular Steampunk culture, where current objects are meshed with antiques.
He predicted audiences will feel like they're in a whole new world.
"It's not only a stage," he said. "You're inside somebody's mind. It's kind of crazy."
Laprise worked in theatre for nine years as an actor, director and artistic director before joining the Cirque in 2000. He worked as a talent scout for several years before becoming special events designer in 2006. In 2012, he provided artistic direction for Madonna's halftime show at the Super Bowl and went on to direct her MDNA tour before directing the musical Robin des Bois — Ne renoncez jamais in 2013.
He acknowledged he picked up a few tricks working with Madonna.
"I learned how to sleep just four hours a night and still be happy," he said. "It was a great, great experience. Madonna is a big fan of the Cirque."
But he added he felt working with the Cirque is "a bigger deal."
Laprise acknowledged it's a lot of work getting the new show together but he's pumped. "It's the 35th show so we have to be relentless. We have to take this responsibility very seriously.
"I am so excited."