Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — When the much-anticipated Amaluna show opened in Toronto last week, it marked Cirque du Solelil’s return to this city following the critically acclaimed TOTEM, which made its appearance in the very same spot on the Port Lands in 2011.
While Cirque may have migrated away during the winter, it feels like Toronto has always had a candle burning in the window for this performance troupe. People can call this production beneath the blue-and-yellow Big Top tent temporary all they want, but one would be correct to wonder if Cirque du Soleil ever really left the Toronto waterfront.
Or if it ever will, judging by the admiration that this city clearly has for the Quebec-based company known around the world for a sophisticated take on circus and performance art.
“Since I’ve been working with Cirque, which has been 10 years now, the audiences have grown,” said Carrie Sager, president of FLIP Publicity. “They can’t get enough of it. Audience response is bigger and bigger every show.”
While not as large as heavy hitters O or Mystère, Amaluna doesn’t disappoint. In fact, one might argue the giant tent is an even more natural venue for this production than the bright lights of Las Vegas, where several Cirque shows are staged. Like any Cirque undertaking, Amaluna is a sharp explosion of colour, edgy music and athleticism that will thrill onlookers. Within the first few minutes, the spectacle mesmerizes the audience. So much so that at times watching the sold-out crowd of 2,600 was as interesting as the show itself as patrons watched the stage the way a baby stares at a spoon at feeding time.
Cirque du Soleil Thrills Toronto
Amaluna carries a cast of 52 performers and a crew of 68 that includes technicians, cooks, administrative staff and even two teachers for a total of 120 people on tour. The cast and crew together represent 16 different countries. Amaluna publicist Amy Orfanakos says Toronto has always been a regular stop for Cirque du Soleil. The new shows, like Amaluna, tour to Toronto almost immediately after they premiere in Montreal, giving the audiences here the opportunity to be among the first to see Cirque’s newest creations. The show will end its run in Toronto on November 4, 2012.
“The performers and crew love Toronto as much as the Toronto audience loves Cirque,” says Orfanakos. “The crowds every night are loud and invested in the performance, giving the performers a huge rush every time they are onstage. This city has a great energy.”
Amaluna is directed by Tony Award-nominated Diane Paulus (Hair and Lohengrin). It tells the story of a princess and her lover coming of age on a mysterious island, and follows them through several trials and challenges.
All the performances were very good, particularly a remarkable, methodical and mysterious balancing act by Lara Jacobs Rigolo.
Another unforgettable performer was the seemingly spineless contortionist Julia Mikhaylova (and I mean “spineless” in a complimentary way), who did a dazzling dance over a giant water bowl, one of the newest features of Cirque performances. Just watching her made me want to call an ambulance.
You’ll also love the daring tightrope walkers and the pole climbers, who aren’t afraid to get really high and then come falling down, stopping just inches from the floor.
One suggestion: The fans in the back are loud and switch on and off during the show. A small, unavoidable inconvenience since the production takes place in a tent. If you purchase the cheapest ticket at the back (Price Level 4, $58.50 Regular), you may end up near this equipment, which was distracting at times. If you can afford it, opt for the Price Level 3 range ($73.50 Regular).
MORE ABOUT CIRQUE DU SOLEIL’S AMALUNA
Address: 51 Commissioners Street, Toronto, ON (see map below)
Tickets: Get details about the performances that run until November 4, 2012, and purchase tickets by clicking here.
Prices: Tickets range from $58.50-$283.
Parking: You can park in a lot at the event for $20. Street parking is available if you’re willing to walk.
NOTE: Photos courtesy of Cirque du Soleil