Let me start by confessing — I'm a crier. Stick me in a crowd and show me something even the least bit artistic and inspiring and I get all watery-eyed and sniffly. It's the raised energy of so many people all focused on one thing, the thrum of humanity, that gets me.
So when I went to see Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna on opening night I expected I'd probably enjoy it, and like usual, probably tear up. Um, yeah. Let's just say I should have skipped the mascara completely.
For the uninitiated, Cirque du Soleil is known for jaw-dropping feats of acrobatic daring coupled with graceful yet fastidiously precise choreography, stunning costume and set design, over-the-top showmanship, and basically knocking the socks off audiences worldwide. Amaluna, directed by Diane Paulus, is no exception. What makes this production unique is the added emphasis on the story itself. Not just a series of thematically linked acts woven together, the show is more of an acrobatic ballet meets a Shakespearean girl-power rock opera. I'll break that down for you.
Loosely based on The Tempest, and with requisite gender-bending shenanigans, this is a tale of divine feminine, of balance, renewal, rebirth, a celebration of the rite of passage into womanhood. In a world ruled by the cycles of the moon, Miranda, the maiden, comes of age under the guidance of her mother, Prospera, the queen. On an island inhabited by goddesses, Valkyries and Amazons, Miranda's powerhouse of a magical mama will do anything for her daughter — she brews up a storm, ensnaring a troop of shipwrecked young men. Among them is the maiden's Romeo (and yes, he's named Romeo), but before love can prevail the two must overcome obstacles and fight for their union. The plot is not exactly a nail-biter, but the presentation will have you on the edge of your seat and the storyline creates a beautiful framework for the artists' performances — which are sublime.
From the caged skirts on unicyclists to the peacock plumes, Mérédith Caron's costume creations are awe-inspiring in their own right. The tail of Cali, the jealous half-lizard, half-man is almost its own character, and in conjunction with the character's well-sculpted frame and reptilian charm, may have been the cause of more than one blush. The stunning set designed by Scott Pask, is lush with moony-silvery tones and natural elements. Bamboo-like frames curve like peacock feathers around the revolving central stage. The centerpiece an opulent bowl that is at times the base of a stage, and when uncovered, a pool into which Miranda dives. It brings to mind a jewel, the moon, a vessel, and myriad other symbols of female sensuality and fertility. Girl power, indeed.
Finally, should you take the kids? There is some ribald humor, and the production is certainly sensual, but there is nothing in it that would preclude the attendance of children. You may want to leave the younger ones at home though, just so you can let yourself get swept up by it. I know my experience would have been diminished had I needed to attend to two squirmy kids in the rather small and tightly packed seats, not to mention the funds required for the pricey tickets. If I had a daughter age 10 or up, however, I'd wouldn't want her to miss it for the world.
If you go ...
Where: Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna is playing at Marymoor Park, Redmond
When: Through March 24: Tuesday, Wednesday. 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Tickets: $43.50 and up/adults; $33 and up/kids ages 2-12 (under age 2 free). Buy tickets online.
Tips: Parking is $15 cash, and make sure you have it -- there is no available street parking close by. Some light refreshments are available, but don't go too hungry, unless you don't mind filling up on hotdogs.
About the author: Emily Metcalfe Smith lives and writes in Edmonds, WA.