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Review: Cirque du Soleil's "Alegria"

February 12, 2010

When a show features breathtaking aerial work, haunting music, laugh-out-loud clown antic, and a silent Act 1 closer that is remarkable in its grace, impeccable in its execution and as purely perfect as anything I've seen on stage in a long time, is it too much to ask for it to also have a satisfying second act?

It sounds greedy, I know. But despite all of the acrobatic miracles on display, the second half of Cirque du Soleil's "Alegria" (visiting Conseco Fieldhouse for the weekend) is a letdown.

Don't get me wrong: The performers still achieve things that mortals by all rights shouldn't be able to do. It's just that the evocative threads laid out in the first act stop developing. It feels like a different director, significantly less brilliant writer and director took over.

Knowing that going in may help you appreciate the magic that takes place in the first half, where flight is the theme on which dozens of variations occur.

On an aviary-ish set, bird-like creatures have trouble flying and, instead, stand in wonder at the humans who are able to perform remarkable feats with bungee cords, trampolines and trapeze. A pair of clowns compete and collaborate with various forms of transportation, including paper airplanes. And, in that closer I mentioned, a sad-sack with a large suitcase is offered a magical chance to reconnect with his past--and discovers that memories aren't easy to tear up and throw away.

I won't tell you more, in part because I don't want to ruin the piece. And because, at its incredible best, Cirque du Soleil defies words.

Your thoughts?


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