Cirque Du Soleil’s “Varekai”
“Deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano, exists an extraordinary world – a world where something else is possible. A world called Varekai.” So begins the company’s description of this wonderful show.
World-famous Cirque Du Soleil hits Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for six performances only. Wow! A lot of infrastructure for such a short amount of time and a lot of bang for your buck! If you dream of a sophisticated circus that is more like Fellini or Avatar than the Big Top, you must see this show. Your heart will be in your stomach as brilliant performers flip and bounce hither and yon supported by scores of elves and wizards, both behind the scenes and in plain sight. In other words, this show is another of Cirque Du Soleil’s scintillating alchemy of death-defying acrobatics in combination with amazing stage craft.
Varekai (pronounced ve·ay·kie) means ”wherever” in the Romany language of the Gypsies—the quintessential wanderers. And this is an apt name because the show is everything but the kitchen sink. The story is loosely woven into the classic “once upon a time a stranger comes to town” structure. In this case, Icarus floats and dances down to the edge of a volcano (where the action takes place) from above. He’s Philip Petite (who walked between the Twin Towers), he’s a winged angel between two worlds, and he’s pure poetry. He does a dance in a net that slows time; caught and free, it’s worth the price of admission. His fall is the start of the main story, but even before the fall, a lot happens.
There are hosts of elves, creatures and tribes, as well as four main characters that drive Varekai and keep all the wonderful digressions from taking over. There’s Icarus, the angel, who floats from the sky; his love interest, “The Betrothed;” the old and wise Guide and Skywatcher, who early on holds a pep rally with the audience. White haired, grass skirted, and pushing a cart of rusty stuff, he has an infinite ability to create sounds with things that are not there.
The show is a classic story of boy meets girl and, after some setbacks, marries her. There are also plenty of contemporary references in the action, sets and costumes. A Bosh painting tableaux that moves, Avatar/Pixar colors, a Mad Max hot air balloon, and a Honey Boo Boo character who assists a clown are just some of the current cultural references.
Instead of dancing swans, toys and rats, as in a classic ballet, there are tribes, fairies and creatures. The long tall filaments that make up the the upstage portion of the set look alternately like the trees that grow only on the Varekai planet or – when the fairies climb onto them – giant blades of grass.
Barclays Center is so dark and commercial, it has less charm then an airport. Huge but well-organized for quick service, they usher you through a friendly security check as you’re moved along the long journey towards your seat. The actual arena is almost “intimate,” which is quite a feat for a place that seats 1900. On your journey you pass tons of junk food distribution centers with long lines and huge helpings of fast food.
With the strong acrobatic dancers on stage, must we be exposed to all these large over sized helpings? After a show like this, shouldn’t we be inspired to dance around our living room not weighted down with nachos? None of this takes away from the fact that Cirque Du Soleil is like the Ninth Wonder of the World. Conveniently located at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Varekai is on for only four more days, through Sunday, August 3rd.
About the show:
Creative guide and founder; Guy Laliberté, Dominic Champagne; writer and director, Andrew Watson; director of creation, Stéphane Roy is the set designer, Eiko Ishioka; costume designer, Musical direction; Violaine Corradi, Michael Montanaro & Bill Shannon; choreographers, Jaque Paquin; acrobatic equipment and rigging designer, Nol Van Genuchten; lighting designer, François Bergeron; sound designer, Francis Laporte; image and projection designer, Cahal Mccrystal; clown act creator, André Simard acrobatic performance designer and Nathalie Gagné makeup designer.