KURIOS by Michel Laprise (Cirque du Soleil). At the Grand Chapiteau (Cherry and Commissioners). To October 26. $50-$160. Cirquedusoleil.com/kurios. See listings. Rating: NNNN
For three decades now, Cirque du Soleil has been satisfying our curiosity for thrills, chills and acrobats risking spills in their high-fashion-meets-world-culture takes on the old-fashioned circus show.
So it's appropriate that their special 30th anniversary offering is titled Kurios. After cranking out dozens of inspired (and a few less so) works, the company shows no signs of artistic fatigue.
This is one of Cirque's most consistent productions. A dark steampunk aesthetic suffuses everything from the darkly tarnished sets to the futuristic Victoriana costumes. More importantly, the acts - from the opening evocation of a steam-engine train onwards - are perfectly integrated, displaying lots of imagination and skill.
It's hard to know what to single out. If you think riding a bike in Toronto is hazardous, try riding one while suspended in midair, as Anne Weissbecker does with effortless ease. (Actually, spinning above roads could be safer than T.O. during rush hour.)
Kurios also puts a fascinating aquatic twist on the contortion act, having four fiercely flexible women outfitted like electric eels elegantly form a series of tableaux that'll make you wish you had tried harder in gymnastics class.
I don't usually rave about the clown turns in Cirque shows, which often feel like filler between the oohs and aahs. But there's some highly amusing work here, one piece involving an invisible circus that should really delight the kids, another a lonely guy who gets to have a date with an audience member and show off physical comedy worthy of the great silent stars.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Cirque show without those amazing feats of strength. The Russian cradle duo consists of Olena Tereshchenko flipping about and landing securely on Roman Tereshchenko's shoulders. It's astonishing because it's so gracefully done. And brothers Roman and Vitali Tomanov execute their aerial straps sequence with perfect timing.
Some acts don't quite work. A dude wielding yo-yos, however virtuosically, doesn't quite register for an audience of 2,000.
But Cirque still evokes a sense of wonder and magic, whether it's a simple dinner scene that takes on a whole other dimension (I don't want to spoil the surprise) or a sequence involving finger shadows projected onto a hot-air balloon.
You can't get more old-school than finger shadows. But what the company does with them will more than satisfy your curiosity.