KOOZA – Cirque du Soleil
Santa Monica Pier
The French Canadian troupe has become the standard of excellence when it comes to reinventing the circus. From its US debut as part of the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival, Cirque du Soleil now boasts twenty simultaneous productions all over the world.
KOOZA is a return to Santa Monica, where the production initially moved in 1984 after stunning us at its original location in Little Tokyo. The production values have soared, but the basic themes remain. An ageless child views the spectacle of the performers, equally wide-eyed as the audience. A thin story line threads across the evening, but it is never too thick to obscure the inspiring acrobatic performances.
The production is named after a Sanskrit word which means “box,” “chest” or “treasure.” After the ubiquitous knee plays that keep the audience amused before the lights go down, the production ostensibly springs from a box during the opening sequence. Soon we are treated to a series of increasingly impossible performances.
Favorites included a dual tightrope (with jump roping and bicycles), and a gigantic whirling axle with two circular cages (“Wheel of Death”), in and on which two performers generated the momentum to keep the axle revolving while leaping and rolling perilously around the cages.
The live music was ably performed by a band above the stage, led by an operatic singer. In a deviation from many prior Cirque productions, audible English was used in sequences between the acrobatics. And unlike other Cirque performances, KOOZA features an animal…albeit a furry and rude dog by way of a costumed clown.
The audio and lighting under the billowing yellow and blue ‘chapiteau’ are remarkable (although no production will match the audio fidelity of LOVE, the Beatles and Cirque production ensconced in Vegas, where each seat has 3 speakers).
KOOZA’s writer and director David Shiner consistently strikes a balance; for instance the vibrant motion of the spinning axle contrasts with the methodic building of a tower of chairs, on which a sole performer steadies himself.
That dichotomy is a subtle undercurrent to the success of this (and indeed each) Cirque production.
We connect with the Innocent’s awe, whether watching the spectacular juggling prowess of one performer, the elegant contortions of the Asian trio of women or any of the 49 other KOOZA performers.
I have yet to see a disappointing Cirque du Soleil production.
For more information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com, or call 1-800-450-1480.
Tuesdays thru Thursdays at 8:00 pm,
Fridays and Saturdays at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 pm, and
Sundays at 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm.