Performers take the stage inside the Big Top. Photo: Engi Abou El Kheir
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Cirque du Soleil show is powerful, emotional and humorous

The opening night of Cirque du Soleil’s new take on their historic and lauded show, Alegria, first performed in its birthplace of Montreal in 1994, premiered in Gatineau on the Zibi site last Thursday night.

The original Alegria was retired in 2013 after over 5,000 shows viewed by more than 14 million people. The show was designed to showcase the strength of youth and the power struggles between old and new, involving over-the-top costumes and Spanish, French, African, and Mediterranean musicality.

The new show returned in the same spirit and style, but with a few retouches.

Daniel Fortin, vice-president of creation at Cirque du Soleil, explained to the Ottawa Citizen last April they were attempting to change the classic show up with special events and “immersive content” saying, “it starts with the dinner. It’s not only the show.” 

Outside the venue, decorated by various flags, the excitement was palpable, with some of the hundreds of viewers arriving as much as half an hour earlier than the 8 p.m. show start to enjoy the festivities. 

Ticket holders entered a large enclosed area, met with champagne flutes, a VIP area, and a red carpet with a backdrop for photo opportunities with the cast. Other performers roamed in sparkly dresses, suits, and bright makeup, interacting with the crowd animatedly. Servers passed around paper bags of chips, chocolate-covered blueberries, and red clown noses. 

The inside of the blue-and-white striped Big Top was deceivingly large, boasting vast concession stands. The harmony between the old and current show was showcased with new performance pictures hung up, artwork from the show’s previous era decorating many areas of the tent. Merchandise even combined symbols and images from both old and new.

The crowd filtered into the stage area around 8 p.m., which seats close to 2,600 people and was almost sold out, brimming with anticipation as the lights dimmed and the first act was introduced. 

Around fifteen minutes into the show, during the throws of a group acrobatic act, one performer stumbled and fell and another was injured, causing the performance to be brought to a pause. The show continued about 10 minutes later, also causing the intermission to be prolonged to 45 minutes instead of 25 because of difficulties.

Alegria’s characters include brightly dressed clowns, winged nymphs, angels, fishnet-clad ‘Bronx’, and the White Singer and Black Singer, all of whom provide haunting live melodies.

The storyline centres around the world of Alegria’s guide (and the show’s poster model), the delusional Mr. Fleur, a self-proclaimed king after the true king disappears, with his golden, crystal-topped staff and iconic red velvet outfit. 

The characters represent the “youth of tomorrow” challenging the order or commenting on society, while in the end attempting to bring light and hope for the future to the audience. 

The storyline is not simple to follow, or imperative to enjoy the show, but it is interesting to watch knowing some of it.

One of the stars of the night was the fire knife dance performer, who never ceased twirling, throwing, and eating his torches, even as the floor lit up around him. His energy and a constant smile lit up the room and garnered a standing ovation from a few audience members.

Performers dangle from a bungee cord, showcasing artistry and trust that enthralled the crowd. Photo: Engi Abou El Kheir

The flying act introduced two lovers flying with a bungee cord that allowed feats of swinging by one leg, pulling each other up and down, gliding along stage holding one another, and twirling together. This act showcased pure artistry and trust, receiving the best reaction of the night. The feeling lingering in the air and in the audience was one of awe and emotion. 

Following this came a light-hearted ‘cleaning crew’ of clowns that brought an audience member onstage to be danced with, kissed, and proposed to, to the hilarity of the audience and the man himself. The final few acts of the night involved hula hooping with dozens of hoops, moving the stage floor to perform a trampoline act, acrobatics with floating lanterns as props, and lastly, a contortionist balancing on canes.

The show came to a close as the White Singer sang “Alegria” and all (over 50 members) of the cast, as well as the crew and designers, emerged from backstage multiple times to dance and bow at the edge of the stage to one final standing ovation and hundreds of smiling faces. 

All in all, Alegria is truly a masterpiece that has stood the test of time and remodelling, a worthy see for everyone. It is powerful, emotional, humorous, and has the potential to appeal to and touch anyone who watches the show.