Cirque du Soleil has become a lot like Christmas. Everyone more or less enjoys the experience but, truth be told, Cirque has become predictable.
So what a pleasant surprise to report that for the 35th Cirque presentation, “Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities,” writer/director Michel Laprise has reinvented Santa Claus.
Playing now through Jan. 29 on the grounds of Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, “Kurios” is the freshest, most inspired and most engaging Cirque show to hit South Florida since rival company Cavalia (founded by Normand Latourelle, a principal with Cirque du Soleil in the 1980s) brought “Odysséo” to Miami in 2012.
Laprise promised as much in a chat with the Miami Herald earlier this month to tout his spectacle. “I said to the creative team that this is more than a show. We were told by our audiences the last two or three Cirque shows were starting to become predictable.”
“Kurios” reveals its differences from the moment the audience enters the familiar blue and gold Grand Chapiteau big top. A narrow bridge, made of metal and rope, runs the length of and towers over the simulated wood stage. Want to go backstage and traverse the bridge so you can feel like one of the 46 performers in the “Kurios” cast? Go for it. Time permitting, a crew member will help line you up backstage for your walk across the bridge.
Laprise doesn’t try to force a story into “Kurios.” Just know there’s a main character called The Seeker (Anton Valen) who cavorts on a Victorian-era stage, and he has a cabinet of curios who come to life via the acrobats, contortionists, jugglers and vocalists to tantalize his imagination.
One of the most delightful acts, Hand Theater, features hand puppeteer Nico Baixas, who acts out a drama in miniature by using just his hands to portray various characters. His movements are projected on an antique-style dirigible’s screen and, at one point, Baixas used the head of an audience member as his stage. Friendly tip: you might be in the show so floss well and brush your hair beforehand.
Also charming and unusual is an act you won’t see. But you will. Let’s explain: Facundo Gimenez, the comic Ringmaster, presides over a number of traditional circus acts — the trampoline, the lion tamer, the high-wire acrobat — but the performers are “invisible” and only the parting of a curtain, a teetering see-saw, the roar of the escaping beast, the swing of a trapeze, are presented. Sounds silly, but it works.
Laprise, who served as artistic director for Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl halftime show and subsequent MDNA Tour, elevated every typical Cirque trope with a twist to engage the eye and delight fans who have seen it all before.
A traditional balancing act with chairs that somehow stick together is boosted by an amusing mise-en scéne: a dinner party in which guests stack chairs on the table as hand balancing artist Andrii Bondarenko performs frightening feats atop them. You’ve seen that before in other Cirque shows. But you haven’t seen a mirror image of the same, descending from above the tent’s tip top, as performers scamper upside-down to meet Bondarenko in the middle.
The end result is a Cirque show that will tweak your imagination. Fresh and wildly creative, “Kurios” feels like more fun than opening presents on Christmas morning.
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