Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’ Gets a Big Eastside ‘Wow’

Last week, Cirque du Soleil’s “Volta” opened on the Eastside. On Tuesday, Under the Big Top at Marymoor Park buzzed with about 2,500 eager audience members before the show, munching on popcorn, drinking champagne, and wondering what kind of impossible-seeming performance we would soon witness.

At 8 p.m., after we had filtered into the enormous tent and found our seats, the lights dimmed, the audience hushed, and the show began.

“Volta” opened with a golden-clad spectacle called the Mr. Wow Show, in which a series of talented performers — a juggler, a crew of Double Dutchers, a hoop manipulator — competed for “wows” from the audience, which we were more than happy to give. As a part of this show within a show, a dancer, Waz, took to the stage and performed beautifully, only to finish and have his hat snatched off his head, revealing spiked, feathery blue hair that he seemed embarrassed by. The Mr. Wow Show dissolved, and Waz was left alone on stage in a single spotlight.

From this point on, the show’s loose plot is spurred by Waz’s shame and lack of confidence in himself, his ostracization from a dystopian group of robotic dancers staring at their cell phones, and his fascination with a community of colorful acrobats who ultimately lead him to a powerful self-acceptance.

The story is driven forward by flashbacks to and current portrayals of Waz’s life, but he doesn’t define the entire experience. When not focusing on the progression of his character, “Volta” luxuriates in the freedom of plotless and impressive Cirque acts: gymnasts bouncing on giant trampolines and gracefully landing on windowsills like monkeys; men jumping through a series of small hoops that are stacked progressively higher; BMX bikers flipping and twirling their way through an onstage terrain park.

On Tuesday night at Marymoor Park, the audience responded to each of these acts as if the Mr. Wow Show had never disappeared: We oohed and aahed, and I for one watched open-mouthed, squealing in delight, for the grand majority of the two-hour spectacle.

The feats accomplished by “Volta” performers are nothing short of incredible, and the show is moving, funny, and seamless. Above all, it’s wildly entertaining.

If you have ever thought that something was impossible — for example, a person twirling 35 feet above the ground held by nothing but her hair — this show is a must-see. It will probably prove you wrong.

“Volta” plays at Marymoor park through November 4. Tickets start at $39 and are available here.

is an assistant editor at 425 magazine.
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