by MIKE CHAIKEN
Cirque du Soleil has the reputation of being the standard by which all other circuses must be judged.
And the quality, skill, and talent of Cirque du Soleil was clearly on display as its show, “Corteo,” which opened at the Webster Bank Arena on Wednesday, July 18.
The art of the circus has a well-established and time-honored entertainment recipe. At just about any circus worth its salt, you will find aerialists, acrobats, jugglers, clowns, etc.
The key to the success of this recipe is how well the artists approach their skill sets and how the creative team packages, organizes, and frames these skill sets for an evening of entertainment for paying customers.
All of the performers who stepped out on stage clearly demonstrated they are the best of the best.
Additionally, “Corteo’s” success is due to the way the show unfolds like a dream. There is a child-like innocence and wonder on stage that is simply enchanting.
“Corteo” is about a clown imagining his own funeral. But as the show moves forward, we realize that the main character is not dwelling on the bleakness of the end but is focusing on the joyful path that led to this moment.
This blissful approach to these memories is wonderfully presented to the audience so that we can enjoy them as well.
There were many wonderful acts and moments throughout the evening in Bridgeport. And it’s extremely difficult to single out just a few.
However, I particularly enjoyed the aerialists who spun high above the stage on ornate chandeliers to open the show. Excitement at the circus is often generated by witnessing performers who push themselves to the point of putting their own lives in danger. The aerialists flew through the air with the greatest of ease– demonstrating their flexibility and beauty. It was a truly delightful moment. But there also was the fear that at any moment, if they misjudged or mis-stepped they could suffer serious harm.
In the same vein of pushing themselves to the point of harm, I also was entranced by the trapeze artists as they tossed each other from pole to pole, many yards apart, only catching the flying performers at the last moment by their wrists. I watched in admiration the timing and strength exhibited by these performers.
There were also a lot of little moments that brought smiles to my face and also reinforced the sense we were all part of a wonderful dream.
One of my favorite moments came when the main character came out high above the stage, riding a bicycle through the air, playing catch up with the flying angels accompanying him through his memories. It was a surreal moment but one that seemed perfectly plausible.
Another wonderful moment was when one of the performers flew out over the audience attached to helium filled spheres. As she floated above the stage initially, it seemed as if she were aloft by wires. However, when she started floating away from the edge of the stage, you realized that she was untethered and truly was flying. It was one of those child-like dream moments that tickled the imagination. After all, who hasn’t had a dream where they are flying?
The wonderful thing about Cirque du Soleil is it offers an entire package to raise the entertainment value of their performances. The soundtrack wonderfully accentuated the drama, joy, and mirth on stage. The ornate costumes caught the eye as they provided a context for the story and characters.
A circus ultimately is about bringing a smile to your face and helping you forget the trivialities of your day to day life.
“Corteo” by Cirque du Soleil does this in abundance.
I give “Corteo” four out of four stars.
Cirque du Soleil continues its residency at the Webster Bank Arena, 600 Main St., Bridgeport through July 22. Performances though Saturday are at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, July 21, there also is a 3:30 p.m. matinee. On Sunday, July 22, there are performances at 1 and 5 p.m.
For tickets, go to www.WebsterBankArena.com