Cirque du Soleil, Orlando
The juggernaut avant-garde troupe from Quebec has spread its mirth to practically every corner of the earth. In the midst of the tsunami of tourist attractions in Orlando, La Nouba steadily and understandably draws sell-out crowds. During the coldest week in years, we enjoyed this production at an early evening performance.
Like all Cirque productions, the performance starts before the lights go down. A pair of clowns browses through the audience, gently terrorizing unsuspecting folks and setting the irreverent tenor of the evening. Indeed, the title of the production derives from the French phrase "to party" or "to live it up."
Once the lights dim, the live band strikes up a march as the troupe parades through the purpose-built venue. We get a glimpse of the various performers, arrayed in colorfully vibrant costumes. As with prior Cirque productions, there is the observant naif who is the audience’s onstage witness to the spectacle unfolding.
The crowd’s favorite performers were four tiny Asian girls, who performed in eerie precision. Each of the four kids holds two sticks linked by a cord on which a spool, the diabolo, spins. The girls flip the diabolos to each other, while performing acrobatic flips and building human pyramids.
Other notable acts were the pair of cyclists. The first zoomed around the stage propelling himself and his BMX bicycle through a series of stunts. His partner followed on a larger, seatless bike and never took his feet from the pedals. He hopped up and down the portions of the stage that rose like errant elevators. Both cyclists came close to the edge of the stage, scaring the punters in the front row. Delicate balancing was also the prime element of several other performers: a high wire act 30 feet above the stage drew all eyes up and later a solo performer built a stack of chairs beneath him, on which he eventually balanced 40 feet above the stage.
I enjoyed the essentially wordless, non-English communication among the performers. The band performed energetically, with two singers alternating vocal pyrotechnics. The stage was impressive, with space for the more energetic acts. The swirling silk flyer soared past the edge of the stage, over the audience’s head.
The final act was an impossibly intricate and choreographed trampoline display. The oddly grumpy muscleman ‘Le Titan’ had been stomping around all evening, and finally came alive on the trampolines. The several gymnasts bounced in and out of a building adjoining the trampolines, and was reminiscent of a similarly effective routine in LOVE, the Cirque collaboration with The Beatles in Vegas.
Of the many Cirque du Soleil productions I have seen around the world, La Nouba is one of the more cohesive and joyful. It warmed us before venturing back out into the chilly Orlando air.