June 10, 2012

Performance Review: Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza at University of Phoenix Stadium

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Meaning ‘out of the box’ or ‘treasure’, Kooza is Cirque du Soleil‘s return to its roots. Under the Grand Chapiteau, you’re sheltered from the Phoenix heat. In this intimate space there is no room for the mega-theatrical shows of Vegas and the many other cities any of the other 20-plus Cirque du Soleil shows electrify audiences around the world. Instead, this is a show that is both simple and out of the box.

When a young, elfish clown, The Innocent, is transported into a king’s court we’re all treated to spectacular circus-type performances. However, not just any circus. A feast for the senses with colorful costumes, amazing feats of strength and mental focus. As well, there is a story that gently Cirque du Soleil Kooza The Innocentbrings you along. The audience isn’t just a passive group watching. We’re part of the show. Indeed, we’re part of the show and I won’t tell you how but just know that from the moment the tent goes black and the first lights for the evening go up you’ll be on this journey with The Innocent.

Now, to be very honest, I’m not a clown person. I don’t go to ‘regular’ circuses and if I’m out at some “family-friendly” event and there is a clown I’ll avoid them at all costs. No disrespect to clowns, but I’m sure it has something related to my childhood. But there’s something very different about a Cirque du Soleil clown. Maybe it’s that Marie Chantale Vaillancourt, the costume designer for Kooza, went deep when she created the costumes. Avoiding the clichés often associated with clowns, the costumes are a bit more caricature combined with modern ideas of what these different people would be. From the striped and slightly oversized costume worn by The Innocent it’s easy to see him as child-like. Contrast that Cirque du Soleil Kooza Tricksterwith the fitted, much more vibrant clothes of The Trickster (played brilliantly by Jason Berrent) and you understand that this isn’t your average circus.

Veteran Cirque director, David Shiner doesn’t hold back any of the excitement you’d expect from a Cirque du Soleil show. Even a very circusy skit involving a pickpocket is “Circque’d-Up” with the magical and entertaining style of veteran performer Michael Halvarson. Instead of the lame schticky-ness of this traditional circus interlude, Michael is seamlessly woven into the storyline. Without the need for over-the-top antics, the entire audience is left laughing and made to feel like they’re part of the show rather than just spectators being entertained during the lull of costume or set changes.

This is not a show where you sit back and watch performers prance across the stage. With three beautiful women who can contort their bodies into elegant poses, high-wire artists that push the boundaries of what can be done on a quarter-inch thick wire suspended high above the stage, a unicyclist that can not only balance himself but also create a graceful and moving dance piece with a partner, high-flying artistry, and so much more you’ll be left at the end wanting more. And let’s not forget the so-called “Wheel of Death” in the second half. The two men who defy gravity on this dual hamster-wheel-barbell-type contraption spin around (and around and around) while keeping you on the edge of your seat. As they are trained professionals, I’m not sure it’s called the Wheel of Death for them as much as it is for the audience since you’ll be sitting there holding your breath the entire time.

I was left slack-jawed several times throughout the show. Truly in awe of the strength, focus and determination by these athletic performers. The men and women of Kooza make the extraordinary seems very effortless. I know that it is years of work that bring them to this point. And I’m so glad they’re willing to share their talent with all of us.

Kooza begins its tour in Phoenix, running through July 15th, then continues on to 3 more US cities before heading across the pond in 2013. If you’re in one of the cities, or nearby do yourself a favor and see Kooza. You won’t be disappointed!

Image Credit for all: Cirque du Soleil

Disclosure: I was a guest of Cirque du Soleil for the opening performance of Kooza. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not required, reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sara

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