‘The show we’re going to tonight is Circus Olé. Right?” my handsome escort (and husband) said jokingly as we trekked west on I-10 into the Friday sunset.
“Of course not. It’s Cirque du Soleil (pronounced Serk du Solay), a truly elegant circus experience,” I said.
“What’s that mean?” he asked.
“I have no idea,” I replied. “But we’re going to find out.”
And we did, in exponentially glittering fashion.
Characterized by splashy costumes, live music, and daring athleticism, Cirque du Soleil’s “Kooza” was definitely worth the hoopla and the drive to Glendale.
We arrived early and made our way inside the white tent. I mistakenly thought the show would be in the stadium and was disappointed it wasn’t, but when the lights dimmed, I was thankful for the smaller setting under the big top as it allowed everyone an excellent view of the unfolding drama.
Preceded by comedic clown interaction, the curtain opened on a boy innocently flying a kite. A surprise package interrupted his play. He lifted the lid and out sprang the Trickster, a sleek creature with shimmering eyes, who led him on a journey of imagination, vaguely reminiscent of the Nutcracker’s tour through the Land of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
This was no childish adventure though; it was a mature journey through the wonders of the circus world. Each number offered something different, beginning with Charivari, a balancing act of multiple people and multiple layers, followed by a trio of graceful contortionists who twisted themselves into poses even yoga divas would be challenged to master. From there, amazing amazements unfolded one after the other including trapeze and high wire stunts and a unicycle dance — think pas de deux on a bike. A clownish king and his bumbling court jesters provided comic relief with an adult twist in between the adrenalin-pumping stunts.
By intermission, we were exhausted.
The second act began with The Wheel of Death, a pendulum-like contraption with huge counterbalanced rings. In step to ominous music, two men, costumed as demons, ran, jumped rope, and flipped inside and on top of their separate rings, spinning inside the larger gyrating contraption. We held our breath. Were they going to plummet to their death?
When they didn’t, we burst into relieved applause, amazed at the truly death-defying stunt completed before our eyes.
Calmer numbers, like hoops manipulation and chair balancing, gave us a chance to catch our breath before the final sequence — a breathtaking number involving a teeterboard and multiple airborne flips.
It was astounding and we all loved it. My arms are still sore from the applauding, and applauding, and applauding.
Before last week, I didn’t understand the cachet surrounding Cirque du Soliel and the “oohs and ahhs” that attend them. Now I do and though I’ve seen equally impressive stunts, I must admit, I’ve never seen a circus quite like this one. A little bohemian, a bit international, and truly amazing, Cirque du Soleil is one show I’m glad we didn’t miss.
Photo: The twin high wires criss-cross diagonally stage left to stage right at 15 and 25 feet above the stage, and the four tightrope walkers add their own tension to the 6,600-pound load on each rope.