|the cast of Amaluna|
photo by Markus Moellenberg © 2016 Cirque du Soleil
For over 35 years, Cirque du Soleil has been entertaining millions of people around the world with their many acrobatic themed circus shows, including six that have been running in Las Vegas for years. Amaluna, one of their more recent shows which has been touring since 2012, has come to Phoenix for a month long run. This show is a slight departure from other Cirque shows in that the majority of the cast are women. Even the stellar band is composed entirely of women. In addition to their usual high production standards and staple of lithe athletes who perform some amazing feats, that added element adds a nice shot of “girl power” to Amaluna.
The show is set on an island run by a Queen, goddesses and Amazon women. When a shipwreck washes a group of men on its shore, including the rugged Romeo, Miranda, the daughter of the island's queen Prospera, finds herself falling for him and he for her. Though the couple are faced with individuals and obstacles that threaten to keep them apart. The show's press materials say that it was loosely inspired by William Shakespeare's The Tempest and that the acts depict the trials of love between Miranda and Romeo.
Diane Paulus has directed several Tony nominated musicals, including winning a Tony Award for Best Director for the circus themed revival of Pippin, which opened in 2013 right after Amaluna's first production in Tornto, and her contributions to Amaluna help give some cohesiveness to the story even though the plot is still slight. Scott Pask's set design creates an immersive environment comprised of large tree like towers on the sides of the stage and dozens of branch like elements that provide plenty of eye-popping spectacle with the combination of Matthieu Larivée's ever changing lighting and Mérédith Caron's costumes infusing the production with pops of gorgeous colors. The set, costumes and lighting all include deep and vibrant greens, blues and purples. Composers Bob & Bill’s score provides an aural sense of excitement with its electric guitar heavy chords and soaring vocals from Amanda Zidow, who also plays Prospera.
Anna Ivaseva and Evgeny Kurkin make a winning pair of lovers as Miranda and Romeo, respectively, and they also display their athletic prowess in several featured segments. There is a large water bowl that is at center stage when the show begins which is moved about throughout. Ivaseva joyfully and playfully swims inside the bowl while Romeo looks on. He also joins her for a romantic swim before Ivaseva displays her impressive hand-balancing skills. Later, Kurkin performs a solo routine high above the stage on an upright Chinese pole that finds his agile body held aloft at various angles and his entire body falling down the pole numerous times yet stopped inches from the ground due to his incredible strength and arm control.
Other notable acts include an impressive unicycle duo, who are dressed completely in gold, that whirl and weave about the stage in a joyful fashion. Also, aerialists soar high above the stage and out over the audience on straps that give a sense of majesty and beauty to the production. Feats of strength are displayed in three impressive numbers. First, the Amazon women display their physical agility on several uneven bars that are at different heights. Then the shipwrecked men are flung high above on a teeterboard with the weight of one or more of the men launching another up into the air as they twist, turn and tumble above. Later, a group of agile men and women perform a series of acrobatic stunts using just their interlocked arms to form platforms for the others to land upon after they are hurled into the air. Seeing the members form human pyramids is breathtaking. All three of these acts display numerous awe-inspiring aerial tricks.
Just about every Cirque show includes clowns and in Amaluna a fun duo is used not only to provide comic relief to the show but also a fun distraction in between set changes. The clowns are Maïnha, Miranda’s childhood nurse who finds herself smitten with Tito, Romeo's manservant, who is drawn to the lovable woman. Gabriella Argento and Thiago Andreuccetti provide plenty of charm and fun to the parts and interact warmly with the audience throughout the show.
Also, Vladimir Pestov as Cali, Miranda's pet lizard, performs a juggling act on top of the water bowl with the number of balls constantly increasing yet his ability to keep them flying high above his head never stops. One act that stands alone among the athleticism and clowning capabilities of the group is Lili Chao Rigolo as the balance goddess who uses a large number of palm fronds, which increase in size, to form a large structure with each rib balanced on the next. The end result depicts both the beauty and power of the smallest things in the world.
Cirrque de Soleil's Amaluna continues through April 14th at the Big Tip outside State Farm Stadium. For more information, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna