Directed by: Diane Paulus
When: Through January 12, 2014
Where: Under the blue and yellow big top, AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
When: January 22 through March 2, 2014
Where: Under the blue and yellow big top, Taylor Street Bridge - E Lot, San Jose, California
When: March 20 through April 13, 2014
Where: Under the blue and yellow big top, Citi Field, New York, New York
Read Karen D'Souza's review in the San Jose Mercury News.
Read Robert Hurwitt's review at SFGate.
delight of magic, muscle and music
It’s Cirque du Soleil. Seeing the tents rising from the asphalt flats in the AT&T Park parking lots provokes serious anticipation. What follows once we are inside is truly unforgettable. "Amaluna" sweeps us away from San Francisco to a tiny enchanted island, celebrating a young girl's passage into womanhood.
Entering the main tent, everyone was offered a peacock feather. Its distinctive shape is echoed in the set design, a forest of reeds. The circular stage moves and brings the entire audience right up to the action. Before the show starts, in classic Cirque style, the characters mingle with the audience, warming them up for the show. Over the years, Cirque du Soleil has polished its technique of immersive entertainment. The stagecraft and the sound bring the audience to the edge of their seats before the show even begins.
Make sure to purchase a program. It will help to explain the storyline of the show. Without that, it’s hard to follow the plot. Inspired by Shakespeare’s "The Tempest," the story follows Shakespeare’s plot with very broad strokes, changing character names like Shakespeare’s male Prospero to "Amaluna’s" female Prospera. Caliban, in the play, becomes Miranda’s pet, Cali, for the Cirque show. But if you have never seen the play, or don't buy the program, you will enjoy the show; it is well-executed and the thrills are so electric that the plot doesn’t really matter.
With all the characters wandering around the audience, it is difficult to determine when "Amaluna" begins. There is music from an all-female band. Players take the stage and, center stage, a magical red cloth hovers and twists in mid-air: a significant portent for the death-defying acrobatics to come. Queen Prospera calls women forth for a ceremony to celebrate the coming of age of her daughter, Miranda. This evening will be celebration of womanhood. With that, the audience is transported to a mysterious island governed by Goddesses and the cycles of the moon.
The costumes are incredible. There was the simple outfit that Miranda wore, consisting of a white vest and shorts. More complex wardrobes were worn by the WaterMeteors, who embodied the flowers and lifeblood of the island. And then the complicated costume worn by Cali, Miranda’s half-human pet. Each outfit told a story. Prospera wore clothes that spoke to her wisdom and her stature.
When Prospera decides to conjure a storm, she summons the God and Goddess of the wind. Their entrance, from above is breathtaking. The trapeze performance was amazing; there is no safety net to catch the performers. There is no room for error. The storm envelopes the entire tent. There is a shipwreck and sailors are marooned on the island. This is when we meet Roméo, who is truck by Miranda’s beauty. But first he must deal with Cali, Miranda’s jealous pet. Half man, half reptile, Cali’s costume is a miracle. His tail sways this way and that, and at one point he sheds his skin, as all reptiles do, loses his tail and juggles with balls to the delight of the audience. He is full of mischief, throwing popcorn on the heads of people in the crowd, and providing an obstacle for Romeo to surmount in seeking Miranda.
Watching the performers can make us feel physically inadequate. Incredible feats of strength executed with such grace made me doubt my belief in gravity. The characters made the impossible possible, seemingly without effort or strain. Romeo’s pole dance is indescribable. At another point in the performance, the blue-clad Moon Goddess descends from above, and a hush falls over the crowd. Suspended on a ring, high in the air, her entire body dangled only by the nape of her neck.
A group of women, the Amazons, one of the tribes found on this island, wore red leotards, streaked with black. They did a routine with two sets of uneven parallel bars. The design of the apparatus was very unorthodox. They performed a classic gymnastic routine made famous in the 1970s by Olga Korbut, but enhanced by the innovative design, they were able to have as many as three women at a time doing routines, using a triangular structure to erect the uneven bars. The red costumes streaking through the air appeared like a colorful, kinetic free-for-all, with bodies flying through the air.
One of the extraordinary highlights of the show came from Lara Jacobs Rigolo, playing the Balance Goddess. She walked across the stage, a tall, powerfully built woman, who hypnotized the audience.
Using only her feet and hands, the Balance Goddess picks up fourteen sticks, from a small twig on the end to twenty-foot branches, balancing each stick upon the other. The precision required to pull this off is a metaphor for the entire show. There is no room for error and the cast performed brilliantly, impressing the audience with strength, grace, and balance.
This show is the first in which Cirque du Soleil’s cast is made up primarily of women. The show features an all-female rock band that drifts on and off the stage. Their music added a dramatic tension to the show. Only one thing is required to enjoy "Amaluna": You have to show up on time. They will not seat anyone during the performance, so be punctual, and relax. This is 21st century vaudeville; a spectacle with music, acrobatics, and stunts that will take your breath away. Taken together, the performances tell a touching love story.
Cirque du Soleil’s "Amaluna": It’s a must-see circus.