The Cirque Du Soleil premiered in the United States at the Olympic Arts Festival in 1987. They caused a major sensation, redefined the circus, created their own emblematic show, and went on to conquer the world. The troupe has returned to Los Angeles with one of its latest touring shows, Kooza, at it original location in a tent beside the Santa Monica pier. There is nothing really new here, except I think the acts have gotten more daring and thus dangerous, or so it seems given the proximity to the action the tent provides.
Present are the same types of acrobatic, aerial and clowning performances that have been charming audiences for over two decades. What is decidedly different is that the Cirque has returned to its roots as a traveling circus. One might miss the specialness of some of the Las Vegas shows, which now number six and run the gamut from one of their first and I think best shows, Mystère, through their take on the Beatles, LOVE. There are also a couple of water shows and even a racy show that highlights the inherent eroticism of daring young men on the flying trapeze, etc. Kooza, however, is pure Cirque, and in its simplicity I felt I rediscovered the simple triumph of these shows: daring athletic acts, interesting music, great clowning, and an enormous heart.
The acts rotate but at the performance I saw we were treated to the truly inspired juggling of Anthony Gatto, a most memorable quartet of contortionists who managed to twist their bodies in new ways, a high wire act (on a bicycle no less), a death-defying act where chairs are piled on each other while the performer balances on one hand, a great act which I have seen before called “The Wheel of Death,” and great clowning by a quartet of clowns and a peeing dog (in costume).
The whole thing was put together by David Shiner, who has appeared on Broadway and been involved in other Cirque shows. He really knows how to put together a show that builds in excitement and features such magnificent clowns (Shiner is a clown himself). Add the colorful costumes by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt, the music by Jean-François Côté, and all the elements the various designers bring to the show, and you end up with an experience that pleases the eye, ear, mind, and heart.
New this year is the inclusion of English instead of just French or gibberish. Kooza will play at the Santa Monica Pier until November 29th.