BWW Review: Cirque du Soleil VOLTA in Chicago
French Canadian troupe Cirque du Soleil delivers a death-defying and dazzling array of acrobatic acts with VOLTA, now resident in a large tent occupying Soldier Field's South Parking Lot. Each of VOLTA's astounding, seemingly superhuman acts grow increasingly more jaw-dropping as the show progresses.
VOLTA has a paper-thin storyline that serves as the connective tissue between each act. The show roughly follows a young man named Waz, who has blue feathers for hair. Tired of being ridiculed by a mass of city dwellers known as The Greys, Waz seeks fame and fortune at the the Mr. Wow Show. Mr. Wow himself also figures into VOLTA, as he's the focus of a couple comedic bits. While Mr. Wow is personable, the acts have childlike humor and feel like filler. Along the way, Waz also experiences flashbacks to his childhood and an encounter with the friendly Free Spirits.
Storyline aside, the most magical elements of VOLTA are the acrobatic acts themselves. Writer and director Bastien Alexandre has assembled a diverse and thrilling assortment of acts. VOLTA begins with a series of acts that stay closer to the ground, and the show literally ascends higher as it progresses. Early highlights include a unicycle act, in which the unicyclist manages to repeatedly lift his female counterpart-all while continuing to cycle. The act comes to a climax when he balances her on top of his head, without missing a beat. Waz has a chance to display his own acrobatic prowess with a lantern act, dubbed the Acro Lamp. In this bravura moment he flies across the stage on the Acro Lamp (he's also quite a talented dancer, essaying Julie Perron's choreography with ease). Another first act highlight includes an apparatus known as the Trampowall, in which a group of performers use trampolines to catch ungodly amounts of air and fling themselves on and off a rectangular structure as if it were second-nature.
VOLTA somehow manages to top itself in the second half, with acts that become ever more dazzling. Perhaps one of the most magnificent of all is the act of hair suspension, in which a solo performer flies through the air-attached to her apparatus only through the bun in her hair. She floats in mid-air in a manner that seems to defy logic. VOLTA concludes with some of the most balletic biking I've ever seen, as the stage transforms into a BMX bike park. The performers catch astounding amounts of air and deliver their stunts with superb synchronicity.
VOLTA displays the expert and creative artistry for which Cirque du Soleil is known, and each individual act succeeds in its ability to amaze and astound.
A quick note on navigating to the performance site (known as the Grand Chapiteau): The tent is not mounted at Soldier Field, but rather at the South Parking Lot behind the field. If you're using GPS to navigate either on foot or by car, make sure you enter the parking lot's address on 18th Street as your destination.
Cirque du Soleil's VOLTA runs through July 6 at the South Parking Lot at Soldier Field, 459 E. 18th Drive. Tickets are $49-$279. CirqueduSoleil.com/Volta
Photo Credit: Matthew Beard