Cirque du Soleil has swooped back into New York in its second attempt to mount a successful semi-permanent show—Zarkana at Radio City Music Hall. After the financial and critical disaster that was last year’s Banana Shpeel at the Beacon Theater, the new spectacle, which opened Wednesday night, shows signs of many lessons learned.
Banana Shpeel spun a ridiculous “who cares?” tale of a grouchy circus ringleader who’s had a bee in his bonnet for decades because of a past romance gone sour. The irritating plot left little stage time for the incredible contortionists, jugglers, and hand balancers that the audience had paid money to see. In Zarkana, a magician named Zark (get where the title comes from?) has lost his love and his magical powers. (Dude, bummer.) He spends the show lamenting about it in dramatic, rock-opera numbers, but leaves the stage for significant chunks of time, allowing the amazing soldiers of Cirque to do their thing. Less story, yes; but I could have done without Zark and his sad-sack story completely. Why does Cirque du Soleil feel so compelled to add narrative to their New York shows? Is it the presence of Broadway that makes them feel they need to compete? Broadway shows and Cirque-du-Soleil eye orgasms are apples and oranges. Cirque, leave the storytelling to Sondheim—show us the wow.
And Zarkana does deliver on the wow factor. The show kicks off with a perfect appetizer—a juggling act, which is small enough in scale, but kicks into a whirlwind of high-speed coordination that was enough to make my palms sweat. Next up is a gorgeous and romantic aerial duet, in which the male and female performers fly around the expansive stage entangled in a hanging rope. The rest of Act I includes some fun tightrope walkers, but doesn’t astonish. The true breathtaking moments of Zarkana are saved for the second act. Read more
Stage Rush TV: Episode 65
- Word association with Wonderland‘s Kate Shindle
- Acrobats tumble at Cirque du Soleil’s Zarkana press event
- Win a pair of tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera
- Broadway grosses
What do you think, Rushers? Is Kate Shindle the perfect combination of beauty and humor? Do you think Zarkana is going to be one of Cirque du Soleil’s best shows, or another Banana Shpeel? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and have a fantastic Memorial Day Weekend!
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‘Zarkana’ performers tumble during press preview
Coming off the heels of the flop that was Banana Shpeel, which ran just over a month at the Beacon Theatre last year, the Cirque du Soleil company would not want to see the performers of their highly-anticipated new production flopping on safety nets. Yet that is what happened at a press preview Tuesday at Radio City Music Hall for the new show Zarkana. Four times, performers in the acrobatic-heavy show fell off their trapeze and onto the net below.
“We all have bad days,” Zarkana’s creative director Line Tremblay said when she took the stage for a set of scheduled announcements from the Cirque du Soleil creative team. Tremblay appeared visibly embarrassed by the four falls, but writer/director Francois Girard followed her more confidently. “A few drops in the net is not going to stop us from showing you the best trapeze act,” Girard said.
The production still has some time to tighten its act—previews begin June 9 with the show set to open June 29. It is scheduled to run through October 8.
Aside from the four tumbles, which created a palpable awkwardness in the bowels of Radio City’s house, the sneak preview pf Cirque du Soleil’s newest creation was mildly exciting. When they weren’t falling, the acrobats made my stomach churn with their great leaps high above the stage. (It did no favors to my tummy, however, when they fell.) Read more
Review: Banana Shpeel
It’s disappointing to see a company that usually performs its function so well shift away from its brand. That’s what Cirque du Soleil has done with its production of Banana Shpeel at the Beacon Theatre, making the mistake of focusing on narrative rather than acrobatic spectacle, which has become synonymous with the company. It’s the equivalent of Coca-Cola delving into interior decorating. You make a great drink, but stay away from my living room!
Banana Shpeel is Cirque’s attempted redefinition of Vaudeville. A sort of show within a show, Shpeel is run by a tyrant of a producer, Marty Schmelky (played by The Lion King’s Danny Rutigliano with such Danny DeVito bluster that the Hollywood actor should sue). Accompanied by two dull stagehands (Daniel Passer and Wayne Wilson) and a personal assistant (Shereen Hickman, the only presence with genuine pizzazz), Schmelky unnecessarily presents Read more