Review: CORTEO at EagleBank Arena

The production runs through May 25th

By: May. 18, 2024
Review: CORTEO at EagleBank Arena
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Corteo is an Italian word meaning funeral procession, and the name of the Cirque du Soleil show currently at EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, VA. One might expect a show with the name "funeral procession" to be bleak, mournful, and sardonic, but on the contrary, the show was blithe and full of style and jubilant whimsy.  

Though the show is hosted by the sizeable stadium, a good bit of it is closed off. The show is actually performed proscenium style, and luckily every seat available has an unobstructed view of the stage. When entering the space, audiences are greeted with lively music and an intricately designed stage, teeming with vintage allure and some art nouveau detailing. A semitransparent screen hinted at what the show would offer, commedia dell'arte clowns, dancers, and the neverending procession. 

Review: CORTEO at EagleBank Arena
Photos : MajaPrgomet Costumes : Dominique Lemieux

The loose plot of the show follows a clown, Mauro, and his death, his departure from the physical realm. The other members of his circus gather together to celebrate his life and their family, and send him off into the great unknown. In a surreal transient vision, the audience visits Mauro's memories, thoughts, and the talents of his circus compatriots. 

The start is a sensory onslaught. A cacophony of music, voices, yelps, and cheers as virtually every cast member runs, leaps, or acrobats their way across the stage, immediately delivering the image and theme of cortege.  

There was a slightly meta feel to the show. The theme of the circus, was, well, a circus. Acrobats were playing acrobats, clowns played clowns. This circus though had more of an old-world feel to it. The sets, costumes, and music evoked anachronistic charm of 19th-century European circus practices, and the healthy dose of spoken Italian in the show added a layer of authenticity. 

Due to its circus theme, Corteo might have a more diverse series of acts and less acrobatics than other Cirque du Soleil shows. There were multiple forms of aerial acrobatics, Cyr wheels, trampoline acts, balance ladders, and bar acrobatics, as well as jugglers, and vaudevillian comedy bits.

Review: CORTEO at EagleBank Arena
Photos : MajaPrgomet Costumes : Dominique Lemieux

All of the acts were exceptional in their own right, however, throughout the show, there was nonstop live music. Around the stage (and sometimes on it) a clown-ish band played worldly and riveting music that was the true engine of the show, propelling it when needed, slowing it down at other times. The intricate timing of music, stunts, and speech were a more subtle and incredibly impressive aspect of the show.  

At the end of the journey, after everyone has performed one last time with Mauro and after the audience has been inducted temporarily into this circus family, both his cast mates and the viewer say goodbye to the clown, and the show comes to a close. 

Corteo is a wonderful and beautifully dynamic show fit for all age ranges. It is hypnotizing, surreal, and simply impressive. The reputation of Cirque is kept alive. The show runs through May 25th, and is about 100 minutes, with a 20-minute intermission about halfway through. Information on tickets can be found on Cirque du Soleil's website.


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