Friday, June 10, 2011

Cirque du Soleil at Radio City: NY Times Suggests Possible Trouble Ahead; KLS Dad at Previews Calls Zarkana "Irritating ... Boring!!"

When all else fails, give 'em circus

You can read in the New York Times a marvelous in-depth profile on Guy Laliberte, who rules Cirque du Soleil, described bearing "a wolfish grin, mangled pinky and a bald head shaped like a bullet." Blame the bent pinky on a cooking mishap. Mr. L. may eventually also rule the world -- if he can just have his way with New York and London, two of the Big Three Global entertainment centers he has yet to capture by his own account. He has Vegas. And he's back in NY trying his luck at a larger stage, the one called Radio City Music hall, where Zarkana is now in previews..

Jason Zinoman of the Times landed prime time up in Montreal with the Cirque King, and turned out a vivid portrait of one of the greatest showbiz impresarios who has ever lived -- so far, and this King is only 50 or 51. One of his many creative underlings, Philippe Decoufle, director of Iris -- another Cirque show about to open at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre -- describes the King as " a very nice bulldozer." Laliberte concedes what a flop Banana Shpeel was; some blame it on the King's not being within easy reach while the show was struggling to find itself on a NY stage -- the head man was up in space orbiting the earth for a breezy $35 million ticket fee.

Try to get a handle on this: Cirque's 22 current productions around the world "sell about as many tickets as all Broadway shows combined." Next year, revenue is expected to exceed $1 billion for the first time. Are we now on the same page?

He practically owns Vegas. But he wants more. "New York and London are still on my checklist." Sounds like the guy has a sense of humor. One thing he has in spades: producing guts. Doubtful we will ever see his like again. Remember a man named P.T. Barnum? At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, P.T. is looking more and more like a puppet show proprietor compared to the man with the bullet head.

In another Times story on the same subject, Zinoman reports closeup on final rehearsals and endless tinkering over what may be another troubled property; Zinoman was granted rare access. And from his account, I infer that the Cirque crowd still have a way of trying to be theatre without a clue as to what makes a drama a drama (not a circus, by the way -- the two animals are so different). But they are aiming this time to "connect a story that will be touching," says the show's lead, Quebec pop star Garou and "close friend of Mr. Laliberte" (reported, otherwise, not to have many close friends at all). At the time of the interview, Garou was observed to be wanting "his character to grow."

Might be stretch, that. After all kinds of muddling about in the key of Shakespeare, seems the company retreated back to its usual safe haven down there on ersatz sawdust, which evidently did not displease the Big Boss any too much. Late last May, about to exit in a black waiting van, said Laliberte, "We did what we set out to do... It's not a musical. It's not theatre. At the end of the day, we give people what they want: It's a circus."

And it just began previews last evening at Radio City. One of the first customers to take his seat was our very own NY correspondent KLS Dad, who to my knowledge has never orbited earth. Here are some of his immediate reactions:

"Went up to my beloved Radio City Music Hall last night ... feeling sure I was going to be bowled-over with the show. Two words come to mind........... irritating.... boring.......!! There are some knock-out acts, such as the 10-person dual level perch and triple bar flying act... But .. what did they do but put so much giant spider web LED scenery behind them .. and a screaming songstress in the head of the spider performing another of the 'rock opera' songs!! of which had me on verge of walking out on a few occasions.

"I was not disappointed that they could not get the wires anchored for the 'Wheel of Death'.. Also bored with the acts such as the production number with the spinning hoops, the lady doing sand painting for at least an hour (OK..maybe 10 LONG MINUTES) right after intermission.. the very slow flying clown (out over the audience).. another half hour???? Well.. too damn long!! And the group of 'Swiss?? flag tossers!!!!!!!! Get the hook!!!

"All in all.. I feel the production so over powers the performers.. and it isn't magical either to listen to..or watch. And.. with the non-stop music there's not much opportunity for the audience to applaud. And most went on for too damn long... Another example - the 15+ acrobat troop at the end."

KLS would like his money back.

Thanks to Don Covington for linking me to the Times stories.


Robert said...

I was there opening night. I have to agree with the review. Very disappointed.

Jason Zinoman said...

Really happy you enjoyed the stories, especially because i am a big fan of Big Top Boss. There are some interesting parallels between JRN and Guy.

Showbiz David said...

Thanks, Mr. Zinoman, Congrats on landing so revealing an interview with the Cirque King. He surely merits a major biography. Maybe you are the one to write it?