BWW Review: Fantasy, Thrilling Feats, and a Lovable Clown Couple Usher ALEGRIA Into a New Era
The reimagining of Cirque du Soleil's ALEGRIA: IN A NEW LIGHT features all the spectacle and intrigue that the company is famous for, with a few updates that are sure to win over the hearts of even the most hardcore fans of its original staging. This time around, the story of balance and harmony draws on the aesthetics of a Venetian carnival (costumes by Dominique Lemeiux), with Game of Thrones-esque sets (Anne-Séguin Poirier) and a healthy dose of purely fantastical designs to transport audiences to the world of the show's characters.
Directed by Jean-Guy Legault, ALEGRIA features all the types of acts audiences would expect from a Cirque du Soleil show - trapeze, ropes, fire eating, and music. What audiences might not expect is for a clown duo (Pablo Bermejo Medina as Tall Clown and Pablo Gomis Lopez as Small Clown) to steal the show on several occasions. What starts as a rivalry develops into friendship and romance - and despite being clowns, they receive a heartfelt storyline. That's not saying they aren't funny; they have a number of solo and shared pieces that are belly-laugh inducing, but their story is the one the show spends the most time on, and this choice pays off just before the end of the first act when the two clowns (and the audience) face a maelstrom of confetti snow in a blindingly beautiful reunion.
While the clowns are the emotional core of ALEGRIA, the rest of the cast delivers on the promise of spectacular feats of strength and control. It's incredibly impressive to take in Lisiate Tuione Tovo's performance - he seems to be the happiest on stage all evening, and beams through his entire routine - although watching him hold, eat, and lay on burning batons can cause involuntary cringing and concern for his wellbeing.
Darina Mishina's act, comprised entirely of her balanced on a collection of elevated blocks using only her hands is intimate given the large size of the tent and stage. Her arms shake from the sheer physical demand, but she never. On the ropes, Alexis Trudel and Catherine Audy are hypnotizing as they glide above the stage. They perfectly compliment one another, and there is a fantastic moment where Trudel takes advantage of the leftover confetti snow on the stage to accent their performance - something that's so subtly done but adds a bit more beauty to an already jaw dropping act.
The group routines, especially the trampoline segment, tend to be a bit overwhelming. It's hard to tell where to look, and given how quickly the performers move, not looking at the right moment can make the difference between experiencing an incredible feat or trying to snap to attention at the sound of cheers and gasps. Regardless, the opening performance featuring over a dozen performers as they stack themselves on sticks, and the show's closer involving several performers dropping from the top of the tent to catch the arms of another person on a moving swing, are almost unbelievable in how perfectly executed everything is.
ALEGRIA also benefits from the backing of a small band comprised of cello (Bika Blasko), accordion (Sara Formoso Fábregas) and percussion (Nellyris Negron). Negron starts out on a portable snare, but her appearance behind a massive drum kit during the fire eating routine brings a modern edge to the show. Singers Irene Ruiz Martin and Virginia Garcia Alvez deliver the show's numbers with crystalline voices, often sticking to simple and clear performances in favour of riffing - but when they do have the chance to go big, they do so wonderfully.
ALEGRIA: IN A NEW LIGHT is a perfect introduction to the fantasy of Cirque du Soleil and is sure to be just as entertaining for audiences who are familiar with the show's original staging. The new additions and alterations to bring it into the 21st century only seem to add to the concept of balance the show is based on, and let's be real - the inclusion of a gay clown couple, who just happen to be completely loveable, is a success by any terms.
ALEGRIA: IN A NEW LIGHT runs through December 1 at the Big Top at Ontario Place, 955 Lake Shore Blvd. West, Toronto, ON.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/alegria
Photo credit: Marie-Andree Lemire