Cirque du Soleil: Amaluna (San Francisco)

The latest offering from the Montreal-based global troupe is Amaluna. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the production offers more of what we have grown to like and several novel acts that do not fail to inspire.

Perhaps due to the Bard’s influence, there is noticeably more use of the spoken language (mostly English) than I recall from prior productions. A subtle and welcome difference in Amaluna was an emphasis on the distaff side.

The clowns that perform the interstitial ‘knee plays’ are unfortunately more cloying than their equivalents in other productions. Many other productions feature a child-like Everyman journeying through a fantasy world of acrobatics, but Amaluna has a Romeo and Juliet motif feathered into the proceedings. As with all Cirque du Soleil productions (other than current and past productions that feature the canon of Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Michael Jackson), Amaluna eschews a coherent story line and relies on the spectacle of the international performers.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The most amazing performance is the most subtle. As the music diminishes to a hush and eventually to total silence, Lara Jacobs Rigolo uses her toes to pick up increasingly larger palm fronds. She steadily builds a Miro-like sculpture held by her hands. The sculpture grows to impossibly large proportion, held together by magic, balance, sheer will or a combination thereof.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????A globe of water is seen on the shadows of the stage, and is eventually brought to center stage. The globe was used to more erotic effect in the racy Cirque du Soleil production Zumanity, exclusively in Las Vegas of course. Instead of two girls cavorting and writhing, eventually our Romeo and Juliet frolic gracefully in the moist environment.


?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ama CHINESE POLE_1 ama TETTERBOARD_1 Acrobatics, juggling, uneven bars, a teeterboard and a crocodile (Viktor Kee) fondling his mammoth tail were memorable. The second half was far more inspiring than the first half. The music is played live (as always but for the Presley, Beatles, Jackson productions) and is an edgier blend of tunes than other productions. Various world music strains still appear. The female lead guitarist in her purple robe shreds impressively, but of course not quite as well as the diminutive Minnesotan. The costumes by Mérédith Caron are lovely, bright and evocative.

The challenge undoubtedly discussed more frequently at Cirque du Soleil headquarters in Montreal is how to recreate the wonder of a visitor’s first exposure to Cirque du Soleil. My first exposure was during the 1984 LA Olympic Arts Festival, in a scrabbly parking lot in downtown LA. I was amazed then, and I have been amazed many times since. But invariably, the bar is set ever higher with each succeeding production. If you are a devoted fan, Amaluna delivers what you love about Cirque du Soleil. If you need a constantly diversified entertainment palette and you have seen several other productions, Amaluna will be more of the same.  Me? I became a converted fan three decades ago and love seeing what is new under the blue and yellow chapiteau.

Photos: Yannick Déry

Costumes: Mérédith Caron © 2012 Cirque du Soleil

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.