Assistant editor Lauren Foster and deputy editor Ethan Chung saw Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna” on opening night. They spent a decent chunk of an afternoon discussing their favorite parts. Here’s what transpired. Beware, this review contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen the show, you can learn more and catch up on a summary here.
So let’s talk Amaluna! Overall I thought it was a great show. As usual with Cirque du Soleil, folks can expect plenty of pretty colors, feats of balance and acrobatics and of course live music. All of the promotional materials for Amaluna (bus ads and billboards are everywhere) had me thinking of “Avatar” for some reason going in, but the show ended up being a bit of a rock opera, which took me by surprise. In fact the music is quite different from other Cirque shows that have come to the area. For the most part the soundtracks of previous shows have been whimsically classical but the music of Amaluna is immediately noticeable and contemporary – electric guitars, bass, drums and even a saxophone solo provide high energy throughout the show. I liked this different direction, but I did find it a little distracting every now and again when the musicians were on stage. I didn’t know where to look (which of course can happen at any Cirque du Soleil show). The use of this all girl-group of rockers highlighted femininity, one of the clear themes of Amaluna and I thought the producers chose wisely here. The musicians were bold and powerful, and the audience was reminded that femininity can take many forms. -Ethan
Yeah, that girl rock band definitely brought Cirque du Soleil to new heights musically. Like when Prospera, the protective mother with magical powers, started playing the blue cello with the moon goddess some 30 feet in the air. Crazy. That’s the thing that baffles me about Cirque du Soleil. How the performers are able to concentrate and balance in the spotlight while 2,600 people watch is beyond me. I don’t think I could solve a simple algebra problem in the spotlight (or ever really) let alone balance the back of my head on a hula-hoop and swing around while singing like Ms. Moon Goddess. I’m definitely one of those people who watches the whole show with my mouth open and clutching the person next to me. I can’t imagine being one of the performer’s mothers.
But can we go back to that part when the moon goddess beckons to Miranda, our sweet protagonist, with her song? How did you feel about Miranda doing all those balancing acts around the giant bowl of water? I personally was freaking out in my head the whole time. Adding slippery wetness to a balancing act seems like suicide. Also, I felt as though the white bikini was a poor choice. I would have gone with a far less transparent color/material. Thoughts? -Lauren
I wasn’t going to bring up the white bikini choice. BUT I’M SO GLAD YOU DID. The performer who plays Miranda (Ikhertsetseg Bayarsaikhan…great name) was incredible – an unbelievable act of flexibility, concentration and pure strength, but all the while I was bracing a) for her safety and b) a disastrous wardrobe malfunction. I’m sure there’s a good reason they made the choice to go with white (white=innocence?). Perhaps that color works best for showing off the performer’s body. I realize that reads a little creepy here, but I mean it as a compliment from a fitness/strength perspective. Her performance was nearly inhuman, but perhaps showing as much of her body and muscle structure at work lets the audience know that she’s not a machine. It was a pretty moving scene when Miranda and Romeo meet up and flirt in that big tub-o-water. I’ve never seen “O”, the Cirque du Soleil show that’s performed mostly underwater, but I imagine this scene was that in miniature.
Cali, Miranda’s protective pet half-lizard/half-man did NOT like that scene. The flamboyant lizard (the wife and I dubbed him “Sassy Lizard”) was one of my favorite characters (spoiler alert: he can juggle). Our seats were near the main aisle, and it seemed like every time I turned to the aisle, Sassy Lizard was all up in my face. His costuming was vivid (prosthetic tail and all!) and his movements were creepy and comical at the same time. Great performance by him. Who was your favorite? -Ethan
The Sassy Lizard was definitely a favorite. I see his skin tight lizard leggings becoming a hot fashion trend in 2013 (no, seriously). Although, I realize no one will rock them like Cali.
For me, I think my favorite was the group of Castaways. I love that they land on this island of women, women who have never seen a man, and all they want to do is jump. No romance, no lusting, just jumping really, really high. And to be fair I had gotten just enough romance with the flirty big tub-o-water scene that I was ready for some nonsensical jumping. I could not believe how high they could launch themselves into the air. They are truly amazing gymnasts that make the impossible look easy.
But in terms of the most impressive characters, I’ll have to go with the Watermeteors (aka Chinese acrobats). There was one particular point where a female Watermeteor was doing a back flip in the air and landing on the feet (that were pointing at the ceiling) of a male Watermeteor. This was the point where the woman next to said under her breath, “Oh no she didn’t.”
Question though, did the Nanny and the Manservant win you over? I found that they didn’t really fit into the Amaluna world. Also, I think my boyfriend is still mending his emotional wounds after being pulled into the show by the Nanny and forced to hold one of her 7 football babies. For those of you who haven’t seen the show, I realize you might not understand why footballs were being used as babies but I don’t understand it either. -Lauren
The legging trend is getting out of control. Our editor wants me to sample “meggings”… perhaps if they give me as much confidence as the Sassy Lizard?
For those of you who don’t know, during a Cirque du Soleil performance there’s always a clown that provides some levity and comic relief during the show to allow for time for costume/set change, etc. In Amaluna, the roles of the clowns are played by Miranda’s goofy nanny Deeda and Romeo’s manservant Jeeves, who somehow become lovers. They were not my favorites this year. A little grating and out of place (I didn’t see a ton of nannying done by Deeda, that job seemed more fit for Sassy Lizard). I think I was just always looking forward to more acrobatics.
Speaking of which, this year’s show featured a few acts I’d never seen before. While I enjoyed the Castaways, I think I’ve seen similar acts in past shows. The Watermeteors were new to me. I can’t recall seeing Cirque use Chinese acrobats before. And they were fantastic.
But my favorite act of balance and dexterity came from a bizarrely delightful performance from a character called the Balance Goddess. This performer never left the ground, and remained mostly still throughout her scene, yet I was captivated and on the edge of my seat. I recall the hushed silence of the rest of the audience during this act, and so I don’t think I was alone in feeling so much tension.
It’s one of the many reasons Amaluna is a must-see show. Cirque du Soleil has a knack for being totally ridiculous and outlandish, but there’s real beauty and entertainment in all its shows. Amaluna is no exception. Performers are always taking physical risks and producers creative ones. For the first time, a Cirque du Soleil show is mostly cast with women, and the music is performed by an all female rock band. While those factors shouldn’t be considered risky or out of the box, in retrospect it’s nice to see Cirque du Soleil take a bigger step in that direction. -Ethan
Will you see the show? If you’ve already seen it, what did you think?