Cirque du Solei is a cornucopia of sights and sounds, where gymnastics, contemporary dance, drama theater, circus performers and live music all meet beneath a giant traveling Grand Chapiteau (big top). It is a place where a sports fan and a ballet aficionado can take granny and the kids, and all can a have a great time.
The latest Cirque du Solei show to hit Southern California is Kooza, which just finished a run in Santa Monica and now opens tomorrow at Orange County Great Park in Irvine. Described as “an adrenaline rush of acrobatics in a zany kingdom,” KOOZA pays homage to the roots of Cirque du Soleil as it combines the circus traditions of acrobatics and the art of slapstick and clowning.
KOOZA revolves around The Innocent, a wondering loner, trying find himself and discover the meaning of life. Along the way, he meets a cast of comical characters such as the King, the Trickster, the Pickpocket, and the Obnoxious Tourist and his Bad Dog.
“KOOZA is about human connection and the world of duality, good and bad”, said the show’s writer and director David Shiner. “The tone is fun and funny, light and open. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it’s very much about ideas, too.”
The show begins with The Trickster popping out of nowhere like jack-in-a-box in front of The Innocent. After surprising him, the Trickster takes the sad young soul into the magical world of Kooza. In this world, The Innocent finds a reflection of his own soul, brought to life with the help of the Trickster.
He meets The King, a flamboyant monarch searching for respect, who is followed around by two bungling Court Clowns. He also encounters a clever and clumsy clown called Pickpocket; the strange Heimloss, who lives beneath the stage, and a lovable beast called The Dog.
To help tell the story, the show features live music incredible acrobatic stunts. One of the most memorable feats comes when a performer carefully stacks eight chairs, forming a precarious 23-foot tower, which he proceeds to climb. This is an mesmerizing and scary live stunt that had me watching through my fingers.
Other acrobatic highlights include a 25-ft-high twin high wire act that crisscrosses the stage, with four tightrope walkers; a Teeterboard that flings artists into the air, where they execute quintuple twisting somersaults; and the 1,600-pound Wheel of Death, which rotates at heart-stopping speeds, powered only by the two artists who leap and counter-rotate in a death-defying display of acrobatics and teamwork.
While all this is going, on the music of Kooza keeps pace with a steady rhythm of uplifting songs, inspired by western pop culture, from 1970s funk to full orchestral arrangements and Indian music.
Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA runs Jan 8 – Feb 14 at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. Performances: Tues –Thurs 8pm; Fri – Sat 4pm and 8pm; Sun 1pm and 5pm. Cost: $42 – $135. Tickets are available online at www.cirquedusoleil.com/kooza or by phone at (800) 450-1480.