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The iconic blue and yellow striped tents are once again up by BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, Canada, which can only mean one thing: the new Cirque du Soleil production, Amaluna, is in town!
The new show, which debuted for the first time in Montreal just earlier this year, is in Vancouver from the 23rd of November 2012 until the 13th of January 2013, at its usual place in downtown Vancouver, a two-minutes walk from the Stadium – Chinatown Skytrain station.
The tents may be familiar, and many of the aspects and of the show itself have been present in other Cirque du Soleil productions; however Amaluna, as every Cirque show somehow manages to be, is very different from any other production I’ve ever seen.
Upon entering into the tent I got my first glimpse of the set, and my immediate reaction was awe in its beauty. The set looks very organic, composed with grass-like bamboo sticks towering over the stage. A large glass bowl at the back of the stage (reminiscent of that found in the Zumanity production in Las Vegas, USA) hints at the fact there will be a water-gymnastics combo at some point during the show.
The most striking component of this production is cool colours, which set the mood for a night-themed show (after all, the name Amaluna is a literal translation for Mother Moon). There is a lot of darkness, illuminated by the lead colours of blue, purple and green, present in anything from the set, to the lights, to many of the costumes, especially on the peacock feathers. Reds and yellows soon make an appearance, but are not as frequent as the earlier colours of the night.
Suddenly, my eyes focus on a moving figure. A performer wearing a beautiful peacock costume, glimmering in the lights. On the other side, a chameleon-clad performer moves reptile like through the stage. Before the show has started, the performers are up to their usual Cirque antics, as the chameleon soon digs his face into one of the viewer’s popcorn, taking some with his tongue. Before long, he has stolen the popcorn containers of about five viewers, and sprinkled the contents over other unsuspecting ticket holders, as they make their way into the show, to the roaring laughter of the rest of us.
By the time the show starts, we get a glimpse of the entire cast, the amazing costumes (some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in a Cirque show), and soon we get to know the talent of the all-female band, playing and singing a multi-language mix of original scores typical of the Cirque du Soleil shows. The show is visually stunning, and the music is, as expected, spectacular. Acrobatics in the show are present, although not as extreme as in other productions, as Amaluna tends to focus more on the beauty of dance and visually appealing body movements than hardcore acts.
The show follows the story of a princess falling in love with a cast away, and fighting through a set of challenges as a dark queen (formerly a white peacock) tries to keep them apart. In an original twist, the princess time and time again seems to be the hero, as her love interest plays the damsel… err, mister, in distress. There is a lot of playful competition between mystical creatures, such as the red (female) horses and the blue (male) um… hairy beasts of some sort, as well as a darker side of a battle between black spiky chameleons and celestial bodies I like to refer to as moon goddesses. Oftentimes throughout the story, floating above the set (although sometimes down below, interacting with the rest of the characters) is the moon, who at times offers her voice to sing some of the lyrics, including being the main singer of the title song Amaluna.
At some point in the story, the chameleon who at first seems to be friends with the princess turns evil, the dark queen turns back into a white peacock, and at the end they all live happily ever after. The comic-relief sets in between the main storyline (another common characteristic of Cirque du Soleil shows), follows the story of a female clown who meets a pirate, courts him, gets pregnant, and has multiple American-football ball babies with him. There are also plenty of contortions and gymnastics numbers in the show, although again, the acts are a little more sensible than in other productions.
The storyline (although sometimes confusing) is easier to follow along than other Cirque du Soleil shows, and although the acrobatics in Amaluna are not as extreme as I’ve seen in other shows, the production is beautiful. What the show lacks in acrobatics, it more than makes up for in the set, costumes, music, and vocals.
This theatre production is highly interactive, taking all members of the audience (maximum group of around 12 participants) in a scavenger hunt-like adventure around Vancouver, in the search for the cure for a looming zombie apocalypse.
Having sworn secrecy about this event and all (but mostly because I don’t want to wreck the surprise to any potential goers who might be reading this), I can’t go into much detail about the plot itself. All I can say is that, the day before the show, participants will receive a top-secret call on their phone (after purchasing the $25 per person ticket, that is) advising them in which location to meet. From there, a series of clues (many of which are deciphered through a smart phone’s bar code scanner) will lead the group from stop to stop, where actors -both playing human allies or zombies- will lead on the story.
At some point along the way, participants can alter the ending of the story, which is pretty cool. In my case, my group’s decision lead to the demise of humankind (I personally would have saved it, but unfortunately didn’t show enough strength to lead the team in the right path).
The show can feel a little long at times, and it is highly influenced by the dynamics of the group and the members of the group itself – I was fortunate enough to be in a group with very funny characters, which added to the experience. Not going to oversell this as the best theatre experience I’ve ever had, but it was definitely one of the most unusual ones, and a fun activity to partake in during the Halloween season.
The acting is great and make up is actually pretty impressive. Each show lasts about 1 1/2 hours and there are five shows per day, running from the 13th of October 2012 until the 31st of October 2012. Tickets need to be pre-purchased, and space is extremely limited!
*Note: As all the original shows have sold out, The Virtual Stage has added additional shows until the 3rd of November 2012! Do note that the new spaces available are higher in price than the original noted above. Space is selling out; for tickets visit http://www.thevirtualstage.org/tickets/
This year’s productions were ‘Titanic: A New Musical’ and ‘The Music Man’ (I went to see Titanic).
Theatre Under the Stars showcases local Vancouver talent. In the performance I saw, I was fairly impressed with the acting and vocals of the cast (the city’s got some incredible voices!).
The sets are slightly underwhelming, relying mostly on projections to set the stage; yet, the main point of Theatre Under the Stars is to enjoy a theatre production outdoors, which is pretty cool.
The 2012 season is now over, but next summer will showcase Legally Blonde: The Musical; anyone planning on going?
Broadway Across Canada presents the Broadway hit musical Disney’s Mary Poppins, at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from the 17th of July to the 22nd of July 2012.
I had the opportunity to see the show for the second time on Thursday night (I first saw it in December 2011 while living in Sydney, Australia), and absolutely loved it as much as I did the first time.
Based on the 1960s Walt Disney movie (and the original 1930s stories by P.L. Travers), Mary Poppins is the story of a magical nanny at the tun of the 20th Century London, who comes into the lives of the Banks family just when they need her the most, and changes their lives, for the better.
The set and costumes are truly magical.The main set, the home of the Banks family, appears to be a mere pencil drawing, which comes to life and opens up as a doll house would. Very versatile, the set rotates to reveal three different rooms in the house.
Another main set, the park near the Banks home, appears to be lifeless and grey, until the magic of Mary Poppins brings colour into it. A third main set, the bank, is also represented as lifeless in black and white, yet it is visually beautiful.
One of my favourite numbers in the show is the performance of Step in Time, in which Mary Poppins, her friend Bert, the Banks children, and a number of chimney sweeps tap dance on the rooftops of London.
Likewise, the performances and musical numbers are outstanding. Almost as if on cue, the audience clapped along to the music in a few occasions, most noticeable during the extremely colourful performance of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious near the end of the first Act – as well as it’s encore during the curtain call.
The heart-warming story has the audience going through a roller coaster of emotions from laughter to joy to tears. The whole production is incredible, and well-deserving of a standing ovation every single time.
If you can go to the Vancouver production, or if the show is coming to your city, I highly recommend you go see it, you won’t regret it!
Vancouver’s Artsclub theatre company is presenting Xanadu, the hilarious musical based on the 1980′s film starring Olivia Newton John, at its Granville Island Stage location this summer, until the 4th of August 2012.
Living with a Roller Derby girl when I lived in Sydney, Australia, whose derby name is Xanadon’t, I often heard about the inspiration to her name, but knew nothing about Xanadu, save for the fact that it was somehow related to roller skating.
I had the opportunity to visit Granville Island Stage last night to see the show, and was pleasantly surprised. The show is very over the top and flamboyant, full of colour, and bursting with references to the 80′s. Overall, the show is absolutely hilarious and definitely worth checking out. This Artsclub installation showcases some excellent local talent, on both the part of the cast and the three-piece band, as well as beautiful (sometimes laugh-outloud funny) costumes.
The Artsclub is one of Vancouver’s most prominent (non-broadway) theatre companies, bringing dozens of musicals and plays to the city at affordable prices. The stages are usually simple and minimal, yet strong enough to portray the settings they intend to, and the local talent is outstanding.
Xanadu runs this summer from the 21st of June 2012 until the 4th of August 2012. Tickets are available from $29 to $54 depending on seating zone. I highly recommend it!
The Artsclub‘s Granville Island Stage is located at:
103 1496 Cartwright St