Thursday, November 3, 2016

Review: Cirque du Soleil Creates a Wondrous World in TORUK - The First Flight

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Don LaFontaine was one of the most prolific (and best-loved) voice actors in the movie industry for more years than I can even remember, until his death in 2008. You may not know his name but you've certainly heard his deep bass voice and famous catch phrase, "In a world..." in hundreds of movie trailers during his more than forty-year career. No one has come close to duplicating what he could do. He was one of a kind.

Were he alive today and recording the movie trailer for TORUK - The First Flight, that signature "in a world..." would be the perfect beginning to describe what Cirque du Soleil has created in this stunning yet atypical foray into acro-musical storytelling.

In a world where beauty lives in every detail and the lush jungles of Pandora pulse with life, it is up to one young boy to overcome self-doubt and save a dying people.

Much more than that you don't need to know, and a narrator will take care of supplying the finer points of the tale as you go along. What you do need to be aware of is not to expect what you would normally see in a Cirque du Soleil production. This evolution of the brand trades the troupe's normal progression of death-defying feats as self-contained acts and instead integrates a more streamlined set of athletics into a linear tale. The movement of the artists becomes a language all its own and everything they do is part of the larger sphere of the Pandoran universe.

Photo: Youssef Shoufan. Costumes: Kym Barrett © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

It requires that the audience be ready to take in an enormous amount of potent stimuli as breathtaking projections sweep across the plains of the stage and throughout the audience. Vibrant colors, so tactile and rich you could almost reach out and dip your hand in them, create the vast landscapes, moving waterfalls, and mythical scenes. It is spectacular. The sheer scope of the vision boggles the mind. It's no wonder this show plays out in the largess of an arena setting rather than inside Cirque's smaller traveling tent.

The show may not have the same emotional reach we've come to expect but its highly creative design integrates such visual splendor and new forms of artistry and technology that it's impossible not to feel its impact.

TORUK brings to life the world of the Na'vi from James Cameron's epic film Avatar some 3000 years before we meet them in the film. Within this world, wondrous creatures exist - part puppet, part human, some comical, some ominous. There are Viperwolves and Direhorses, Austrapedes (a kind of ostrich/flamingo/dinosaur) and a Turtlepede (turtle shark). But none are more striking than the flying Toruk, a dangerous beast of prey whom the Na'vi fear.

The tribal sound of drumming is threaded throughout the score, along with haunting orchestral themes and a soundscape that incorporates the pulse of nature. Hoop jumping, fire twirlers, aerial silks, mechanical poles, and contortionists that balance on a moving seesaw of bones are a few of the artistic elements incorporated in the story. Boomerangs whoosh through the air and exquisite banshee kites elegantly lift in a butterfly dance overhead.

Make sure your smart phone is fully charged before you go. Once there, you can download the TORUK app which is a unique way to engage with the show in real time, making fireflies dance, woodsprites converge, and participating in other cool effects during the performance. TORUK may not elicit the same kind of emotional longing or ache for humanity I've felt in other Cirque shows but, in an age where we are becoming more and more disconnected, this is one way of using technology to give us the next best thing.

TORUK: The First Flight

November 2-6, 2016
Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario

November 11-13, 2016
Staples Center in Los Angeles

January 12-15, 2017
The Forum in Inglewood

TORUK creative team: 13 creators under the artistic guidance of Guy Laliberté (Guide) and Jean-François Bouchard (Creative Guide) for Cirque du Soleil, and James Cameron, Jon Landau, Kathy Franklin and Richie Baneham for Lightstorm Entertainment, along with Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon ( Show writers and Directors, Multimedia Directors), Neilson Vignola (Director of Creation), Carl Fillion (Set and Props Designer), Kym Barrett (Costume and Makeup Designer), Tuan Le and Tan Loc (Choreographers), Bob & Bill (Composers and Musical Directors), Jacques Boucher (Sound Designer), Alain Lortie (Lighting Designer), Patrick Martel (Puppet Designer), Germain Guillemot (Acrobatic Performance Designer), and Pierre Masse (Rigging and Acrobatic Equipment Designer).

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett
© 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Photo: Youssef Shoufan Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett  © 2015 Cirque du Soleil

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