note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
In 1996, Cirque du Soleil’s new show, “Quidam,” (pronounced KEE-dam) made its world premiere in Montreal, then toured on five continents, thrilling audiences with its dazzling grace, vivid imaginary characters, and gravity-defying feats.
Instead of performing under the Big Top, the troupe of 52 acrobats, singers, dancers and characters is now touring huge arenas throughout North America, using new equipment, such as a telepherique --- a large, curved, multi-tracked, specially designed conveyer --- that enables performers attached to it to fly or float over the stage.
Last week, the troupe performed eight shows flawlessly, with breathtaking synchronicity, dexterity, silly and spooky stage effects, at the Agganis Arena on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. Bandleader Jim Bevan and his five musicians, along with singers Alessandra Gonzalez and Jamieson Lindenburg, add to the show’s drama, intensifying all acts.
The show’s theme revolves around Zoe, (also portrayed by Alessandra Gonzalez), a bored little girl, whose mother (Denise Wal) seems detached, and her father (Patrick McGuire) too attached to reading his newspaper. On a rainy day, with thunder and lightning crashing, Zoe retreats into a strange, imaginary world, led by John, (Mark Ward), an unlikely, eerie, white-faced master of ceremonies dressed in a purple suit and an Alfalfa-type cowlick. Her world explodes with exciting characters, including a spiky-edged companion, The Target, (Ardee Dionisio), who moves fluidly within his empty space. Suddenly, Cory Sylvester whirls on the scene, spinning in the large German wheel, twisting, turning, inside, on the rim of the wheel, and dangerously close to the edge of the circular stage.
Zoe also meets ghoulish-looking Boum-Boum, (Rafael Munhoz) and wacky clown Toto Castineiras, who throughout the show brings theatergoers on stage to perform stunts and skits with him.
“Quidam’s” comical highlight occurs during the second act, when Toto enlists five people to act in his screwy silent movie.
Zoe’s world hovers between otherworldly and mundane, as four performers maneuver the diabolo, or Chinese yo-yo, based on a child’s game the Chinese have elevated into an amazing art form.
Zoe has fun hop-scotching then watching 20 acrobats skip rope, individually, with partners, and as a group, intertwining their several jumpropes while cartwheeling, tumbling, dancing and skipping in unison.
Overhead, Danila Bim, Lisa Skinner and Meaghan Wegg spin dizzily through hoops midair,with the greatest of ease.
As Zoe’s imaginary world revolves with jugglers, hand balancers and trapeze artists performing stunning acts of dexterity, twirling free falls using thick, twiny ropes, three ghastly, ghostly figures loom overhead, advancing slowly, on the telepherique.
Although all acts are graceful and balletic, Laetitia Bodin and Remi Chai-Debeauvais are exquisite as two statues, who move harmoniously together, fluidly, in breathtaking formations.
In a rousing finale, 17 performers swiftly and deftly switch from one acrobatic and human pyramid formation to another, like a fireworks finale exploding simultaneously.
Suddenly, Zoe’s parents, aware they’ve been inattentive to her, hug her, They rejoice, as her imaginary world retreats.
And we rejoice with them. “Quidam” is poetry in motion - a feast for the eyes and ears, a celebration of the human mind and body.