Tag Archives: Cirque du Soleil

Quick Review: IRIS by Cirque du Soleil

We saw Cirque du Soleil’s resident Los Angeles show last weekend. Cirque is always impressive, and IRIS has the usual collection of trapeze artists, contortionists, tumblers, ribbon flyers, and elaborate costumes you’d expect from one of their shows. This one stands out for several reasons:

  1. I like the history of movies, so all the thematic references to early cinema and classic movies were fun. The Dolby Theater is a great match for this look.
  2. They did a great job of mixing live performances with live and time-delayed video, giving it a very different look from most shows. (And as the program pointed out, the video effects react to the performers, not the other way around.)
  3. This is the first Cirque show I’ve seen in a long time where I enjoyed the clown performances as much as the acrobatics.

Some highlights:

  • The filmstrip act, where the performers walk through a series of identical rooms, each performing an action for a camera that plays back on a short delay, and each interacting with the previous performer’s recorded action.
  • The soundstage number at the opening of act two. I think the entire cast was onstage, all doing something different, all at the same time. An incredible illusion of chaos.
  • A film noir-style fistfight turned into a tumbling trampoline act.

The only disappointment was that act two felt a bit short, probably because the individual numbers were so long.

One more thing: this stretch of Hollywood Blvd is a bit odd if you’re not used to it: It’s sort of like walking around Comic-Con, except the people dressed as Jack Sparrow, Spider-Man and Hello Kitty are there for money instead of fun.

Stars & Lightning with Cirque du Soleil

We went out to see Kooza last Thursday (January 21) in the middle of the biggest storm to hit Southern California in ages. Floods, mudslides, tornadoes, lightning, high winds, power outages…and these tickets had been sitting in my desk since sometime last fall.

Fortunately, we managed to miss the worst of the storm. There was a lull in the early evening, and the cloud layer broke up enough that I could see the moon as I left work. We only hit rain during the post-dinner drive to the show. One moment: clear. The next: lots of brake lights ahead of us. The next: intense rain!

As near as I can tell, the storm passed through just north of the grandiosely-named Great Park in Irvine, where the circus had set up their tent. We could see lightning flashes in the distance, and it was cold and wet and windy, but the sky above was clear. So we reached the show against the backdrop of the moon, Orion and Sirus, lightning, and a giant orange balloon.

Night at the Circus

Tower of Chairs at the Orange County FairThe show was impressive. I think this is the sixth Cirque du Soleil show I’ve seen* and they’ve all been good. A few acts did look kind of familiar, like the guy balancing on a 20-foot-tall tower of chairs (we’d seen a similar act at the OC Fair last summer), but even those acts maintained the “how the heck do they do that?!” factor. A contortionist act reminded me of someone’s idea back in the early 1990s, never realized as far as I know, to get contortionists to play non-humanoid aliens on science-fiction shows. (These days, you can just use CGI to portray any body structure you want.)

Cirque du Soleil Wheel of DeathThe centerpiece of the show was sort of a giant double human hamster wheel. Two mesh wheels, each with a diameter of perhaps 1½ times the height of the performers, are attached to either end of a scaffolding, which is then suspended from the ceiling so that the entire structure can rotate. Then two performers proceed to run and jump inside the wheels as the whole thing spins around in the air…and then they start running around the outside of the wheels! According to the Cirque website, it’s called the Wheel of Death.

The clowns seemed more prominent in this show than in the others I’ve seen, to the point where they basically had two MC characters: one serious, one comedic.

Oddly enough, the show features a rainstorm. There was enough fake thunder and lightning that we probably didn’t recognize the real thing a few times!

*I’ve been trying to remember exactly which shows I’ve seen, and what I can come up with are:

  • Saltimbanco, early 1990s
  • Dralion, 1999 or 2000
  • Zumanity, 2006
  • O, 2007
  • Corteo, 2008?
  • And now Kooza, 2010

I keep thinking there’s one more, but I just can’t bring it to mind.