Cirque du Soleil “Varekai”: A Mystical Experience

After saving up for a (very!) long time, my significant other and I were finally able to go on a big trip last year. So, over the holidays we went to Las Vegas. Family and friends all told us that we needed to see a show—which show, they were not specific. It seemed to be the trend down there to indulge in Cirque du Soleil. The variety was definitely there—seven shows in total.  It was to the point that we thought if we did not see one of these amazing shows here, it would never happen. Fortunately, when we got home we discovered that the newest Cirque du Soleil show Varekai was coming to Copps Coliseum.

Cirque du Soleil shows have been brought to Copps in the past and have not disappointed (check out Ryan McGreal’s review from Raise the Hammer of last year’s Dralion) 

For someone who has never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, it is hard to describe exactly what you are feeling the whole time. The common identifiers include “incredibly strong performers”, “dazzling costumes”, and “astonishing acrobatics”. Given these identifiers, this first-time Cirque viewer was surprised by so much more than what she was expecting when Varekai began.

Once you see a performance, you realize that the company does not identify as a circus for nothing: Varekai was really a variety show. Performers prove multi-talented as acrobats, singers, slapstick magicians, and a juggler grace the stage. Interludes from the main storyline (such as a Vegas-like magician and his assistant) were quite jarring but it became apparent quickly which characters were outside of the world of the magical forest.

The pre-show pulls the audience in gently to what will be an overwhelming medley of music, movement, and stunning visuals. The stage is initially basked in a cool blue-green glow and we can tell the set designers were utilizing materials that could be found in a real forest. A ram-shamble wooden bridge wound its way above the stage while stable bamboo-like poles served as tree trunks, making the stage the forest-bottom. A fantastical array of dream-like creatures crawl and writher around the stage as hypnotic tones complement their movement.

We are first introduced to the class clown of the forest and his cart of gadgets and whats-its. His cart transforms everyday modern sounds (such as a ringing telephone and an airplane taking off) into the sound of birds chirping. A moral evident given this skit is that we need to slow down in our modern lives and pay attention to nature—if we do, it will truly astonish us. Indeed, the natural creatures of this forest astonish and awe from start to finish.

The acrobatics that Cirque du Soleil is so famous for did not disappoint. From a fallen angel who shows elegance and strength in a piece with a versatile net, to a beautiful butterfly showing focus and agility with controlled movements on thin pedestals. There were times when, as an audience member, I forgot to clap because I was so entranced by the quiet elegance of the movement pieces. Live harmonics complemented the movement pieces and showcased the diversity of artistic talent that Cirque du Soleil employs.

A standing ovation solidified how happy Hamilton is to have the opportunity to be entertained by a troupe of talented artists. Varekai was a refreshingly impressive performance and served to create a memorable night out.

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