Cirque du Soleil's "Amaluna": A Tempest-uous Spectacular

The Cast of Cirque du Soleil's "Amaluna"
(photo: Christine Redmond Photography)

Cirque du Soleil’s productions tend to go in the direction of the visual spectacle, such as the long-running “Mystère” in Las Vegas, or the more plot-based creation, such as “The Beatles LOVE”, also in Las Vegas. They are at their best when both aspects are presented, such as in “Iris” in Los Angeles or here in Boston in “Amaluna”, now being presented at Marine Terminal. Loosely (very loosely) based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, this is a successful amalgam of plot structure and spectacular, both athletic and acrobatic . Directed by Diane Paulus, whose home base at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, where she is Artistic Director, just produced its own well-received “Tempest”, this is Cirque du Soleil at its theatrical best. It has all the features one has come to expect from the company, emerging as one of their better efforts.

It’s also one of their most unusual, in that the cast is predominantly female, and the story is strongly feminist. The tale of “Amaluna” (the title connoting “mother” and “moon”), centers around the shaman Queen Prospera (a gender-bender from the original text of the Bard) played by Julie McInnes, who rules a mysterious island guided by goddesses and the cycles of the moon, and her daughter Miranda, played by Iuliia Mykhailova. The goddesses are led by a Moon Goddess (Andréanne Nadeau), featuring a Peacock Goddess and a Balance Goddess, as well as Valkyries and Amazons. Shipwrecked by a storm caused by Prospera, a group of young men comes ashore, headed by Prince Romeo (Evgeny Kurkin) who encounters Miranda; it’s mutual love at first sight. However, the half human/half lizard Caliban-like Cali (Victor Kee) loves Miranda (though she considers him only her pet), and determines to keep Romeo from winning her. Meanwhile, Romeo’s manservant Jeeves (Nathalie Claude) meets Miranda’s former nurse Deeda (Sheeren Hickman) and it’s instant mutual love for these two clowns as well. (Maybe it’s something in the water). While these clowns begin a family, the heroine Miranda and her hero Romeo must face many obstacles along the way to true love’s mutual trust . First there is Miranda’s coming of age ceremony, a rite giving homage to femininity as well as rebirth and renewal, and the balance that helps pass on one generation’s values and knowledge to the next.

Along the way there are countless Cirque du Soleil signature elements. including “Icarian” games, an aerial pas de deux by the God and Goddess of the Wind, a peacock dance, the aforementioned Moon Goddess riding a cerceau (a hoop), those Amazons on uneven bars, and, in a water bowl, Miranda’s depth-defying aquabatics. Then there is a male quintet on a teeterboard (awe-inspiring, even when one tettered when he should have tottered), a balancing routine by a Balance Goddess played by Lili Chao (and what she did was heavenly), Chinese pole artistry (by Romeo) wickedly defying gravity, amazing juggling (by Cali), and a final aerial straps ballet (with those Valkyries). As expected, they’re all impossibly gorgeous (the concession stand should be selling gym memberships) and miraculously talented. The all female band of musicians and singers is terrific as well.

As is also usual for this company, the graceful choreography is exquisite, this time by Karole Armitage. The set and props designed by Scott Pask, as well as the costumes designed by Mérédith Caron, are extraordinarily lovely. The music, composed and arranged by Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard (aka “Bob and Bill”), is atmospheric and moving, aided by the complex sound designed by Jacques Boucher and brilliant (literally) lighting designed by Matthieu Larrivée. All of these technical elements enhance the work of Paulson at her finest, even more remarkable than her Tony-winning direction of “Pippin” just last season.

Since its original conception in 1984, the mission of Cirque du Soleil has been “to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people around the world”. This production, begun in April 2012 and having toured the country since then, exemplifies that mission; its cast of forty-six artists and total crew of one hundred and fourteen hail from seventeen countries. When presented with the craft and creativity of a performance like this, one can only marvel at how ingenious “Amaluna” is in concept and in execution, so packed with delights. Who wouldn’t love a full moon like this? It’s only in town for a few weeks; one would be wise to get tickets soon, as this brings to mind the old saying, “Tempest” fugit.

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