Over-the-Top Big Top: Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna”

Presented by Cirque du Soleil
Created by Guy Laliberté, Gilles Ste-Croix, Fernand Rainville
Directed by Diane Paulus
Composed and music directed by Bob & Bill (Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard)
Choreographed by Karole Armitage
Acrobatic choreographers Debra Brown & Caitlan Maggs
“Sanddornbalance” Act by Rigolo Swiss Nouveau Cirque

May 30 – July 6, 2014
Boston Marine Industrial Park on the Waterfront
Boston, MA
Amaluna on Facebook

Review by Gillian Daniels

Lightly adapting the The Tempest and playing fast and loose with source materials of multiples mythologies, Amaluna patches together dreamy images and circus acts into one, outlandish show. It’s energetic and fittingly over-the-top. Cirque du Soleil has an image to maintain as a thoroughly extravagant circus and they continue this grand tradition by marrying the flashiness of Las Vegas to a syrupy storyline.

The action kicks off with the Moon Goddess (Adréanne Nadeau), usually suspended above the action in a hoop, overseeing the coming of age of Miranda (Iuliia Mykhailova), daughter of island sorceress, Prospera (Julie McInnes). Prospera and the Moon Goddess celebrate this occasion by cultivating a storm, wherein acrobats Vanessa Fournier and Maxim Panteleenko soar above the audience in matching silver outfits. Prospera herself attaches an electric cello to the Moon Goddess’s vehicle of choice, a crescent moon, and plays it while they ride overhead. The moment is delightfully ludicrous, defining both the surreality and glamour of the stunts on display. Why stop at having a Moon Goddess and acrobats when you can have an electric cello at your disposal?

Immediately, the storm washes a ship onto the island. Among the castaways is a young man who catches Miranda’s attention, Evgeny Kurkin (referred to in the character list as “Romeo,” further evidence the show makes overtures to Shakespeare without being terribly loyal to one text). They fight to get to know each other better. Along the way, the couple contends with the island’s bird-like Amazons (talented gymnasts including Karina Brooks, Amara DeFilippo, and Brittany Urbain) and the alligator-lizard-man-creature that doubles as Miranda’s childhood pet, Cal (Viktor Kee).

The show largely focuses on the women in its cast. This suits the show and seems unfortunately unique for a circus much less a well-known, large-scale project. Unlike many fantastic worlds brought to the stage, the default gender here is female, with women in varying roles of power and personality. Prospera may be the most powerful woman in the room, but this takes no stage time away from the graceful dance of Amy McClendon-Lattimore (an exquisitely dressed peahen) or the balancing bone act of Lili Chao, one of the show’s most surprisingly heart-stopping moments. Stunts are accompanied by the amazing all-female musicians like Didi Negron on drums and Angie Swan and Rachel Wood on dual electric guitars.

Other stand-out performances include Iuliia Mykhailova water bowl gymnastics, in which she and Kurkin’s Romeo share a tender moment, and the Amazons strutting their stuff in front of the castaway sailors in an uneven bar routine. Kurkin is given his chance to shine late in the show with the Chinese pole act and the aerial-centric finale featuring Virginie Canovas, Kylee Maupoux, and Marina Tomanova is gorgeous. Vikor Kee’s juggling is less interesting, even when it involves fire, but his playfully cruel Cali is fun to watch. Even the clowns, Nathalie Claude and Sheeren Hickman, are imbued with wonderful character and warmth.

Amaluna certainly delves into the cheesier side of romance and comedy, but that’s easy to forgive. The art direction is too mesmerizing and the action far too slick. It’s over-the-top and ridiculous, glamorous and bizarre, but it’s so confident with its patented Cirque du Soleil veneer, it proves irresistible.

“Moonstruck” – with Cirque Du Soleil – Amaluna: Behind the Scenes Photo Shoot by Michael David Adams from Michael David Adams on Vimeo.

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