The Buzz

Cirque's Amaluna needs a little more polish

Categories: Live Performance

 There's a bit of a story and the feats are spectacular. (Cirque du Soleil)

Cirque du Soleil premiered Amaluna, its newest touring show under the big top in Montreal's Old Port, Wednesday night. The opening night crowd of Quebec's famous and fabulous gave the production an enthusiastic response, despite a number of surprisingly sloppy moments.

Amaluna's director Diane Paulus brings a more theatrical style, with more of a narrative than Cirque productions usually have. The story here is a loose re-telling of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Prospero becomes a singing and electric cello-playing Prospera. The enchanted island is peopled with Amazons, flying bats, a singing moon goddess, a charming Miranda and her sinuous, sensuous pet lizard, who also happens to be an awesome juggler.

Storm washes up Romeo

The storm that strands a boat-load of men is dramatic and exciting, enlivening an otherwise plodding first quarter of the show. One of the men is Miranda's Romeo, who spends the rest of the production pursuing her and displaying his remarkable physique and prowess.

 The balance goddess got a standing ovation. (Cirque du Soleil)

Cirque du Soleil CEO Daniel Lamarre says that Montreal is the company's toughest crowd. All the new touring productions debut here, and it is becoming tougher to impress us. It's why the company hired Diane Paulus, who made her mark with revivals of Hair and Porgy and Bess on Broadway. They asked her to create a show imagining what our world would be like if women were in charge. Paulus spent a year casting the women, and eventually hired acrobats, dancers and musicians from around the world. The women are one of the strengths of Amaluna - they're amazing to watch, strong and -- as a man sitting near me -- said, "hot."

Spellbinding balance goddess

As with all Cirque productions, the sets, the props, the costumes, the makeup are spectacular, and contribute to a spellbinding atmosphere. Some of the numbers are absolutely riveting, especially the quietest segment of all, with balance goddess Lara Jacobs. Using hands and a foot, she picks up a series of palm leaf fronds to create a mobile resembling an animal skeleton. She got the only standing ovation of the evening, until the show's finale.

I am one of those Montrealers that Cirque du Soleil has a tough time impressing. Still, I went in with high hopes for Amaluna. Unfortunately, they were dashed. While there is a lot to appreciate, and there are some great moments, this production needs a lot more work. Some numbers need to be trimmed, some of the artists need to hone their skills a bit more, and some segments should be dropped altogether, especially the clowns. After all these years, Cirque keeps including clown routines that do not work, and merely drag the show down.

Hopefully the next time Amaluna comes through Montreal, it will have been honed into the great show it has the potential to be.

--Anna Asimakopulos

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