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.