Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Circus in a Box - Kooza

Escape to the Circus of the Sun and be amazed at the physical artistry of acrobats flying through the air, contortionists twisting beyond human limits and the death defying balance and skill of those on the Wheel of Death.

Artistic director Luc Tremblay, and a large cast of creative professionals behind the stage, create a world of fantasy and adventure that upholds the excellent tradition Cirque du Soleil has built over the past nearly twenty five years. Kooza follows the main character, Innocent, as he receives delivery of a large brown box while he is out trying to fly his kite. Inside the box is another more decorated box that looks like a giant jack in the box. Sure enough the Trickster pops out from inside and the fantasy begins. The one word title of the show, Kooza, is Sanskrit for "box" or "treasure."

The special effects and live music transported me to another place where the outside world melted away. For over two hours my family and I were mesmerized by the physical prowess displayed by the performers and entertained by the slapstick humor of the clowns. We experienced the curiosity of Innocent as he interacted with the Trickster, all without words, and gasped as the man on a unicycle picked up a passenger and spun her around his head while traveling around the stage.

The show has been on tour for nearly two years with a number of cities left before the tour ends. If you are anywhere near a showing of Kooza it is well worth the time and cost to experience. You'll laugh as the clowns interact with the audience. You will be amazed as three beautiful women contort their bodies into shapes and positions that are hard to believe, even though you are seeing them live. If there is ever a Twister Olympics these women would all earn gold medals.

There are a few acts that take your breath away, like the dual high wire act, and the teterboard acrobatics of men and women who fly through the air, after being catapulted skyward from what looks like an over sized playground see-saw. Note to parents, if you have a playground nearby be sure to advise your children that the see-saw is not a catapult. Of all the acts, there is one that we agreed was at once heart stopping and thrilling to watch. I found myself, normally a bit reserved, yelling and gasping out loud with the audience as two men, dressed as demons, interacted with the Wheel of Death. Think of this act as two giant hamster wheels connected with a large frame that spins end over end, while the "demons" run inside the hamster wheels. That is incredible enough, but when one of them starts running on the outside of the wheel, and skipping rope, it is breathtaking.

I was so amazed at the skill and daring of this act I did some research on the Wheel of Death. It seems the Wheel of Death has been around since the 1930's, under the big top of many circuses around the world, but went out of favor because of the number of deaths and injuries of those who attempted this feat. When Ringling Brothers brought the wheel back a few years ago they changed the name to the Wheel of Steel to keep the show more family friendly. Whatever it's called, the daring and skill necessary to put on this performance, is visually stunning.

There are a number of other acts that make up Kooza which are equally enjoyable and inspiring as those described. The artists make whatever they are doing look so easy. Special recognition is also extended to the costume and makeup artists who pay attention to every detail and nuance. There are over 175 costumes and 160 hats in the show, and everyone looks brand new. The music has an Far Eastern mystic quality that adds to the exotic sets. The soundtrack is available at the show and online and is as creative and fanciful as the visuals. Don't miss this one.