Tour Review: LUZIA (Cirque du Soleil)

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by Lawrence Bommer on July 22, 2017

in Theater-Chicago,Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


The Cirque du Soleil just made a run for the border—and not the Canadian one. Ignoring the United States (a favorite activity of many nowadays), the Montreal-based human circus lavishes its unstoppable imagination on our neighbor to the south. Luzia, the latest (ad)venture under the redesigned white-and-gold Grand Chapiteau (its tent planted in the parking lot of Chicago’s United Center), is a 130-minute extravaganza billed as “a waking dream of Mexico.”

That indeed is their forte, to keep our eyes open—and our hearts too: From icons and images the Cirque du Soleil regularly conjures up the essence of the spectacle they celebrate.

Surrounding the thrust stage are banks of orange chrysanthemums, tended by maracas-wielding mini-robots–and symbolizing, well, orange chrysanthemums. Hanging above the huge arena is a massive ancient solar disk depicting not just the sun (of course this circus’ trademark symbol) but anything that the wizard lighting design wants to paint it.

Tumbling from the big top is Dutch clown Eric Fool Kroller, apparently escaping like D.B. Cooper from an unseen plane. Imitating a whistle-crazed soccer referee, he will later goad a very willing audience into obeying his every bleat as we play with his balloon ball. And, if he can fall from the sky, he can also scuba-dive to the top.

Like so many Cirque du Soleil goodwill ambassadors, our wide-eyed clown “joins the circus,” in this case a panoply of artistes performing on a revolving stage–bipeds, plumage-crazy birds, armadillos, crocodiles, giant roaches, smiling saguaro cacti, and a graceful winged “mariposa” too lovely to have ever been a caterpillar. Seven Mexican musicians play a score drenched in mariachi dances, salsa and meringue, acrobatic tangos, and soaring serenades. (The dialogue is in Spanish as well.)

But the most wondrous element in this enchantment is water. Repeated choreographed waterfalls plunge to the floor, perfectly shaped into a sharp torrent magnificently ornamented with supple projections. Undeterred by these walls of waters, the international performers determinedly accomplish their feats. Cavorting on the Cyr wheel, plucky athletes spin and roll or, high above, trapeze-flying aerialists arc through the sudden showers. Besides the aqua effects, hit-and-run sets depict an old-time movie set by the seaside, an exotic dance hall, and the Sonoran desert.

The settings, of course, subtly suit the acts. Surrounded by banks of votive candles, Aleksei Goloborodko, a young and supremely limber Russian contortionist, outdoes a pretzel in twists and ordinary humans by doubling up through seemingly triple joints. We’re treated to astonishing stunts from two freestyle football pedipulators (as opposed to manipulators) who can land and balance a soccer ball wherever they damn desire. Seven hoop divers on escalating treadmills keep literally raising the stakes as they turn horizontal on a peso.

Other marvels include stately Chinese-pole dancing and fun with movable masts, as well as sash, strap and swing fliers. Then there’s Rudolph Janecek, a Czech juggler and Guinness World record-holder who with seven electronic pins defies assorted laws of physics, our eyes and, finally, our brains. As if to confirm the demise of Ringling Brothers’ traveling menageries that we don’t need no stinking animals, life-sized, human-operated puppets convincingly create a running stallion and a gentle jaguar slurping at a wet oasis.

There’s assorted fun on teeter boards, see saws, giant canes, and ingenious “found” percussion instruments. Benjamin Courtenay, a Canadian aerial straps specialist, delightfully dangles over or immerses himself in a cenote or natural sinkhole, spraying water from his abundant hair.

It all ends with a family fiesta in a hacienda teeming with Spanish artifacts and Mesoamerican relics.

More pageantry than plot, Luzia (which is sponsored by Forsythe Technology and, not incidentally, the government of Mexico) is the Cirque du Soleil’s 38th original production since 1984 and the 17th under the Big Top. This touring treasure incarnates the southern republic–colonial heritage, Mayan magnificence or Aztec artistry (and with no wall in the way!). It lives to persuade us: The felicitas behind these souvenirs is absolutely real.

photos by Matt Beard /
Costumes by Giovanna Buzzi /
2016 Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil
reviewed at the United Center in Chicago
ends on September 3, 2017
tour continues into 2018
for dates, cities and tickets, visit Cirque

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