La Nouba
Cirque du Soleil at Walt Disney World Orlando



La Nouba, Cirque du Soleil’s astonishing long-running permanent show at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, seems to be a forerunner to Corteo, the Cirque’s current touring production now playing here in LA with great success and soon to journey on to Orange County.

Like Corteo, La Nouba—lifted from the French “faire la nouba,” which means to party or to live it up—begins with a solitary character about to partake in a presumably LSD-inspired journey. Here our everyman is a zaftig cleaning lady with rolled-down nylons rather than Corteo’s dying clown, a put-upon night worker would rather fantasize about colorful circus folk than swab the floors of the lonely monochromatic high-tech office complex to which she has been assigned.

There’s not a lot of reality for this forlorn creature to worry about over the next 90 minutes, however, as she is swept along on a wonderful journey by some of the most creative characters in the Cirque du Soleil stable, led on by an enormous and somewhat menacing Lurch-type fellow who resembles a strongman in some counterculture touring European sideshow, a guy with arms so long they nearly hang down to his knees who strides ominously through the action in something akin to an old Rudi Gurnrich thong.


He remains an enigmatic character until near the end of La Nouba, when he joins the Cirque’s incredibly facile acrobats in a trampoline routine that totally defies the constraints of gravity, with participants leaping from the roof and through the windows of a faux three-story building that emerges magically from below the stage floor. It’s a final routine that leaves the audience breathless as the delightfully scantily clad performers appear to run up the side of the structure and, occasionally, even seem to stop dead in midair before it.

There are the usual Cirque du Soleil unusuals, of course, including two fellows who do outrageously impossible things on bicycles that even BMX superstars like Mat Hoffman or Greg Hill would envy; a delightfully commedia dell’arte-inspired mime right out of The Magic Flute; a troupe of diminutive Chinese girls who accomplish unearthly things with oversized spinning spindles; a beauty who not only walks the tightrope but tops herself by repeating the act with the wire placed at a 45-degree angle about 40 feet above the stage; a pair who dance and pose inside oversized German Wheels that teeter and roll until they stop cold inches before reaching the shocked patrons in the front rows; performers who ace an aerial ballet wrapped in silk streamers hung from high above; and, of course, there’s also typically annoying Cirque turns from two clowns who, honestly, personally I could do without.

Better than the usual tired and time-consuming clowns here are an inventive quartet of gracefully bumbling whitefaced Pierrot-clad characters dressed in pure white whose antics continually charm the suitably mesmerized throngs and who, thanks to my “sources” in the Orlando showworld, it seems conveniently also serve an even more interesting capacity here, quietly doubling as EMTs for the production, which surely must have its share of mishaps. Imagine having a heart attack in the La Nouba audience and waking up to see these four guys peering down at you over their flouncy white collars—talk about wondering if you’ve made it into heaven.


La Nouba is one of the most grandly colorful of the Cirque productions, with amazingly vibrant and unbelievably inventive costuming, a gloriously ethereal score performed by a knockout orchestra and exceptionally haunting singers placed high above the action, and technical wonders to rival anything the troupe offers in Las Vegas or on tour throughout the world.

Simply put, La Nouba is a show surely able to charm even the grumpiest and most exhausted of Disney World tourists with its heady does of sheer magic that will quickly overpower a handshake with Minnie, an evening of latenight theme-oriented nightclubbing, or any other wonder the outlandishly huge entertainment complex with its own seven or so freeway exits could offer.

A trip to Orlando without experiencing the spectacle and sophistication of La Nouba would be almost criminal, so watch out or Sleeping Beauty’s Queen might show up at your shoulder to hand you one of her personally poisoned apples if you miss this one.

Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba is a permanent attraction at Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida; for tickets, call 407.939.7600.

TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER teaches acting and theatre/film history at the New York Film Academy’s west coast campus at Universal Studios. He has been writing about LA theatre since 1987, including 12 years for BackStage, a 23-year tenure as Theatre Editor for Entertainment Today, and currently for As an actor, he received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Best Actor Award as Kenneth Halliwell in the west coast premiere of Nasty Little Secrets at Theatre/Theater and he has also been honored with a Drama-Logue Award as Lennie in Of Mice and Men at the Egyptian Arena, four Maddy Awards, a Award, both NAACP and GLAAD Award nominations, and six acting nominations from LA Weekly. Regionally, he won the Inland Theatre League Award as Ken Talley in Fifth of July; three awards for his direction and performance as Dr. Dysart in Equus; was up for Washington, DC’s Helen Hayes honors as Oscar Wilde in the world premiere of Oscar & Speranza; toured as Amos “Mr. Cellophane” Hart in Chicago; and he has traveled three times to New Orleans for the annual Tennessee Williams Literary Festival, opening the fest in 2003 as Williams himself in Lament for the Moths and since returning to appear in An Ode to Tennessee and opposite Karen Kondazian as A Witch and a Bitch. Never one to suffer from typecasting, Travis’ most recent LA performance, as Rodney in The Katrina Comedy Fest, netted the cast a Best Ensemble Sage Award from ArtsInLA. He has also been seen as Wynchell in the world premiere of Moby Pomerance’s The Good Book of Pedantry and Wonder and Frank in Charles Mee’s Summertime at The Boston Court Performing Arts Center, Giuseppe “The Florist” Givola in Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui for Classical Theatre Lab, Ftatateeta in Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra at the Lillian, Cheswick in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at the Rubicon in Ventura, Pete Dye in the world premiere of Stranger at the Bootleg (LA Weekly Award nomination), Shelly Levene in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Egyptian Arena, the Witch of Capri in Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Fountain, and Dr. Van Helsing in The House of Besarab at the Hollywood American Legion Theatre. As a writer, he has also been a frequent contributor to several national magazines and five of his plays have been produced in LA. His first, Surprise Surprise, for which he wrote the screenplay with director Jerry Turner, became a feature film with Travis playing opposite John Brotherton, Luke Eberl, Deborah Shelton and Mary Jo Catlett. His first novel, Waiting for Walk, was completed in 2005, put in a desk drawer, and the ever-slothful, ever-deluded, ever-entitled Travis can’t figure out why no one has magically found it yet and published the goddam thing.