Your verbose reviewer is rarely at a loss for words, but Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities has stumped the proverbial band. I hardly know where to begin or how to describe this whirligig of frenetic fripperies and unearthly, mad skills that takes spellbound mere mortals ensconced in the audience beyond the realm of imagination. Directed and written by Cirque veteran Michel LaPrise, like Cirque’s Las Vegas-based The BeatlesLOVE show, Kurios has less of a discernible plot per se and is more theme-driven. There’s little dialogue to, uh, speak of - although diminutive Mini Lili (Belarussian Antanina Satsura) blathers in what sounds like authentic Cirque gibberish.
Whereas the leitmotif in the former show is the Fab Four’s music and lives, the helter-skelter theme of Kurios is that of the eponymous cabinet of curiosities. These were forerunners to museums which, around the time of the European Renaissance, were encyclopedic collections of ethnographic, natural history-type objects, novelties, antiquities and relics. The outlandish costumes designed by Philippe Guillotel and props by Stephane Roy have a late 19th century, Jules Verne-like sci fi vibe and visual panache, which enhances Kurios’ otherworldly ambiance. There are a variety of characters such as the Seeker, Mr. Microcosmos and Nico the Accordion Man, although they are not clearly identified and delineated onstage.
The 14 or so acts, divided by a 25 minute intermission and performed by a multi-national cast under the big top pitched near Dodger Stadium, consists largely of gobsmacking, mind blowing, death defying deeds, all flawlessly rendered with great aplomb by a team of daredevils, who appear impervious to the rules of gravity. Much of their awesome acts consist of preternaturally gifted acrobats maintaining their poise and equilibrium with the agility of Spider-men - and -women.
In the Duo Chinese Pole a young man and woman climb a 21 foot post to daringly act out a sort of battle between the sexes on high. In the Aerial Bicycle an ethereal cyclist swings to and fro, hanging on for dear life from a bike suspended from the top of the big top. During Rola Bola a character called “Aviator” strives to stay stable on a teeter-totter of cylinders and planks that rises ever higher. Colorfully costumed sky dancers bounce ever upwards on a sort of trampoline in the Acro Net portion of the show, while shirtless male aerialists soar through the air with the greatest ease during Aerial Straps. Upside Down Diner defies the laws of gravity and might have caused Einstein to scratch his noggin. And 13 artists form human pyramids, somersault through space to alight upon one another’s shoulders, etc., doing the Banquine. These intrepid athletes are as physically balanced as “presi-duce” candidate Donito Trumpolini is mentally unbalanced.
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A trio of contortionists uses twisted logic to reconfigure the human form. A yo-yo twirler boggles the mind with lightning fast moves. There is also more clownishness on hand than during GOP prez debates. The whimsical Invisible Circus is the greatest show on Earth you’ve never seen. A female member of the audience is lured onstage where an expert mime comically tries to seduce her, mimicking a dinosaur, cat and more. My personal favorite was the Theater of Hands - I won’t spoil the surprise by trying to describe this highly creative, anything-but-routine routine.
The must-see-to-be-believed acts are accompanied by a seven piece band that performs live music composed by Raphael Beau, with singing by Greek chanteuse Eirini Tornesaki. After the grand finale the audience beneath the big top rose en masse to give the audacious Cirquers a standing ovation at the end of the nearly three hour spectacle that expanded one’s notion of what human beings are capable of doing.
Staggered by their derring-do I mused on what life was like for these entertainers who blithely render the impossible possible? Surely, every morning, the powerful performers of Kurios must eat their Cheerios. And this troupe must have the planet’s politest players - when your life literally hangs in the balance and depends upon the split second precision timing of a collaborator, the last thing one would want to do is insult a colleague prior to showtime. (The word Cirquers’ fear hearing most must be: “oops!”) And with ticket prices ranging from about $50 to $165 to $290 for a VIP package I couldn’t help but think that the person getting the richest from Cirque du Soleil must be who is selling Advils to the plucky performers backstage.
The star-studded aud included celebs - some of whom posed on the red carpet prior to the festivities - such as Nolan Gould (Luke on Modern Family), Kathleen Rose Perkins (the ditzy producer Carol Rance, unlucky with romance, on Episodes), Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce lead Abby, Lisa Edelstein and the co-stars of one of my favorite sitcoms, Black-ish: Adorable Marsai Martin, the persnickety female twin Diane and Anthony Anderson, who plays her droll daddy Dre and appears in the upcoming Barbershop sequel. Tesla motor mogul Elon Musk and thesp Lou Diamond Phillips were also believed seen amidst the sold out throng.
To borrow a phrase from the Beatles, a good time was had by all underneath the big top.
Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities is at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles through Feb. 7. For info and tickets: www.cirquedusoleil.com/kurios; 1-877-9 CIRQUE.