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Monday, 18 March 2013 23:17

Review: Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM

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Review: Cirque du Soleil's TOTEM Photo: OSA Images

Cirque du Soleil’s mesmerizing Totem has just arrived in New York at Citi Field in Queens.  Inspired by the evolution of the human species, the show opens with the Crystal Man (a human glitter ball) descending from the top of the big-top into a large exoskeleton of a tortoise shell.  As he does this, glistening sleestack-looking creatures writhe below him.

This show has the Cirque du Soleil signature all over it, right down to the ethereal Enya-sounding music by Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard.  It has the goofy, slightly inappropriate clowns, the pretty, beautifully built men and women in skimpy tights and the men frequently shirtless.  To boot, they are all doing things I couldn’t get my body to do on a good day… 30 years ago! 

This show is sexy, funny, and several times I found myself saying “oh my God” over and over as these artists threw each other around or hung upside down from a trapeze by nothing but the back of their heels.

The evolution theme of the show and the inclusion of either Native American or First Nation tribal dance doesn’t work.  Or should I say, didn’t work for me.  But it is so easy to overlook this with all the elements in place.  Written and directed by Robert Lepage, he crafts a beautiful, diverse and thematic theatrical adventure.  I think perhaps, however, I would have gone with a “conceived by” credit instead of a written by credit; it’s more appropriate.

The scenic design by Carl Fillion consists of an upstage ramp that runs the entire width of the stage.   There is a hydraulic ramp built in the middle that can move up and out into a number of clever configurations.  Throughout the evening the width of the ramp is used to project videos by Pedro Pires.  These videos have been shot throughout the world and include a beach, a night sky, and one of my personal favorites, overhead video of swimmers swimming outward and then cast members ascending from below the ramp in bathing suites, perfectly sequenced and choreographed by Jeff Hall to match the video.

Not to be outdone, costume designer Kim Barrett has created costumes that grab the eye.  She has what must be hundreds of costumes that range from American Indian, Vegas show girl, ape to alien. 

Jacques Boucher has designed a sound you can almost see as it moves throughout the theatre like a ghost from one side of the chapiteaux to the other.

But the real credit in this production has to go to the hard-working company, many of whom are working without a net or safety.  These men and woman are the art that is Cirque du Suleil.

Totem will take your breath away and may just be the best show to come from the talented folks in Québec in quite a while.

Additional Info

  • Theatre: Citi Field
  • Theatre Address: 123-01 Roosevelt Ave Queens, NY 11368
  • Show Style: Musical
  • Previews:: N/A
  • Opening Night: March 14, 2013
  • Closing: May 12, 2013
Last modified on Monday, 18 March 2013 23:37