Have you ever wanted to just run away and join the circus? I never did. I have always had this strange feeling about the whole circus subculture—creepy clown stories, the inexplicable demand for freak shows, families with rather bizarre skills traveling around, unhappy animals and flamboyant ringmasters…. That is until I saw one of the Cirque du Soleil performances.
It all started when Gilles Ste-Croix and Guy Laliberté actually decided to join the circus and redefine the whole concept of the concept, creating a new era of captivating spectacles. Since the initial performance in Quebec in 1984, Cirque du Soleil has become one of the world’s most famous performances. This new form of circus is sometimes referred to as nouveau cirque and is focused on narrative and human skills rather than perplexity and obscurity. It first started as a company that employed 73 people and had a dream: “To create a Quebec circus and take the troupe travelling around the world.” Their initial financial hardship was solved by a grant from the Canadian Government, giving the young group of circus enthusiasts a kick-start. Each show is a combination of various circus techniques from around the world, with its own storyline and central theme.
The company currently employs almost 5,000 people from 40 countries and has revenue of US $810 million. Their shows have received numerous awards including a Bambi Award, a Rose d’Or, three Drama Desk Awards, three Gemini Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a National Arts Centre Award, a companion award of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, and it was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Currently, the French Canadian entertainment giant has 17 different shows running worldwide. The big show has recently returned to New York with a new show called “Paramour,” and is now showing at the Lyric Theater on Broadway. Its new concept combines high-class acrobatics with elements from musicals. The production of this “high-wired hybrid” costs US $25 million, which is certainly expensive by Broadway standards, but not very extravagant for Cirque du Soleil: the Las Vegas production of Cirque’s “Ka” show had cost a whopping US$165 million!
There is some thematic resemblance to “Iris,” a US $100 million tribute to Hollywood, which had to close after only 19 months. The cast is from 13 different countries and consists of 22 elite acrobats and 16 actors, including a pair of identical twins (aerial strap artists Andrew and Kevin Atherton) and a married couple (hand-to-trapeze performers Sam Charlton and Myriam Deraiche). The story line is very old-school Hollywood—a love triangle between the powerful director, AJ (Jeremy Kushnier), the ambitious singer Indigo (Ruby Lewis), and the songwriter Joey (Ryan Vona), which takes place during a rather vague Hollywood Golden Era.
The very first performance of Cirque in NYC was 1988 and since then the shows have lost their novelty in the eyes of New Yorkers. Its producers claim that Paramour is nothing like New Yorkers have ever seen before, “ featuring eye-popping acrobatics and scrumptious music and dance, Paramour is the groundbreaking new event that will transport you to a sublime world of emotion and awe as it walks the exhilarating tightrope of the heart.” In other words, the circus behemoth wants to surprise spoiled New Yorkers and hopes to create some serious buzz on Broadway.
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