CORTEO created and directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca. Presented by Cirque du Soleil at the Grand Chapiteau (Ontario Place). Runs to September 11, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Friday-Saturday (and September 8) at 4 pm, Sunday 1 and 5 pm, no show September 6. $46.25-$95. 1-800-678-5440. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Finally, a Cirque du Soleil show that reaches for le soleil and doesn't end up on le terre.
For Corteo, the renowned institution has smartly hired director Daniele Finzi Pasca , and her eye for theatre makes a big difference, especially in the spectacular first act.
Gone are the European couture outfits that have always made Cirque shows more style over substance, more runway than theatre.
Pasca has gone back to circus's roots, reimagining those circus archetypes like the ringmaster and clowns big and small (we're talking height). There are even animals - a no-no in previous Cirque shows - albeit ones made of cloth that have stiletto-heeled performers inside. And the acrobatic stunts have often been put in some sort of context, giving them dramatic kick.
In the suggestive but by no means pat narrative, a clown ( Mauro Mozzani ) has just died - we see him on his deathbed - and much of the show seems to be about him reliving moments from his life. Angels dropping from above are a common motif. If there's a cinematic equivalent, it would be Wim Wenders's Wings Of Desire.
Fellini is also obviously an influence. One of the first remarkable scenes shows us the dead clown glimpsing women he has loved, coiled around chandeliers. It's elegant yet sexy. Another sequence takes you back to childhood, jumping on your bed (not that your bed had a trampoline in it) before bedtime.
In the age of computer-generated images, it's hard to impress, let alone move or awe an audience. Yet some of the best sequences here do just that, such as one where Anastasia Bykovskaya walks up a diagonal high wire, or when Uzeyer Novrusov climbs an unsupported ladder and traverses the stage. A scene featuring cyr wheels - the body fits inside a circle and travels - looks so natural and easy, yet must be incredibly difficult.
Not everything works. A whistling routine goes on way too long (and makes you wonder if it's been prerecorded), and an extended show-within-a-show featuring two little performers goes nowhere.
But like the woman supported by enormous balloons who goes bouncing throughout the crowded theatre, this magical show is lighter than air.
Obviously, Mick Jagger et famille thought so, too, since they stayed for the entire late matinee last Sunday, ushered to their seats after the lights went down.