Nowadays, it’s easy to dismiss Cirque du Soleil as a slick corporate entertainment machine. The ubiquitous Canadian behemoth keeps cranking out new productions and recycling older ones, and you can catch them either on tour or at sit-down residencies — right now there are six Cirque shows in Las Vegas, for instance, and 11 more on the road.
One of those, “Luzia,” has just landed in New York City, next to Citi Field, for a spell. After enduring a few misfires, I thought I was Cirque’d out, but this outing is a bracing reminder that when the company is at the top of its game — and “Luzia” is very much peak Cirque — you understand how it has so successfully straddled art and business all these years.
“Luzia,” which is subtitled “A Waking Dream of Mexico,” is the troupe’s 38th creation since 1984, but it shows no sign of impending middle-age tiredness. Partly that’s because it is staged under a big top, where this kind of spectacle belongs — let’s sweep under the carpet Cirque’s ill-fated attempt to conquer Broadway with “Paramour” in 2016, or such arena mediocrities as “Michael Jackson The Immortal World Tour,” “Varekai” and “Wintuk.”
Not only is “Luzia” presented mostly in the round, but the staging area incorporates dual turntables that allow the audience to watch some acts from different angles. This makes for an especially eye-popping result during the final number, in which nine equilibrists take turns jumping to and from a pair of huge swings — at times it feels as if they are going to take off over our heads. I’ve seen this type of act before, but the constantly shifting perspective refreshes this particular iteration.
Innovations abound. An act that involves diving through hoops is done on a giant treadmill placed on a turntable; a waterfall splashing down the center of the stage is beautiful on its own, but its spouts can also be orchestrated at such a minute level that it’s as if some demigod hiding in the rafters is shaping the liquid. A number involving a couple of Cyr wheels, the heavy rings performers stand inside of, and a trapeze would be merely just fine in any other context, but here it takes place in the rain, because why not?
Yet technology alone cannot make a show.
As with all the best Cirque productions, such as the Robert Lepage-helmed “Totem,” this one was hatched by a director with a clear sense of visuals and rhythm — in this case Daniele Finzi Pasca.
The greatest strength of Mr. Finzi Pasca (who wrote “Luzia” with his wife, Julie Hamelin Finzi, who died in 2016) is that he can work on both intimate and grand scales: He oversaw Cirque Éloize’s stunning “Rain,” which played the New Victory Theater in 2005, but also mammoth spectacles like the closing ceremonies at the Turin and Sochi Winter Olympics.
In “Luzia,” this translates to an elegant harmony between smaller moments and all-out stirring numbers. Even the interstitial scenes necessary to accommodate set changes flow notably smoothly. They are usually handed over to a clown character, and here it’s a goofy traveler (the lanky Fool Koller) who is always on the move — maybe that’s why he never overstays his welcome, the usual curse of fillers.
Another Cirque curse, since we’re on the subject, is an oft-derided affection for cloying whimsy. It’s a relief to announce that “Luzia” largely avoids this problem by handling its Mexican theme with finesse via elegant set design, lighting, costumes, puppetry and live music. That may be the best balancing act of all.
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