If you commute along the Downtown Connector, you might have noticed the giant, white circus tent in Atlantic Station’s event lot. That can only mean one thing: Cirque du Soleil is back in town.
I attended the opening night of Cirque’s “Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities” on Thursday already knowing what to expect, but delighted by what I saw just the same.
The famed Quebec-based circus – created almost 40 years ago – has multiple touring shows, and although each has a different theme, Cirque never strays far from its classic acrobatic and aerial roots.
I’ve seen other Cirque shows, including the high-energy “Volta” in 2019 – which added parkour and BMX-style bike riding to the mix – but “Kurios” is a much more traditional circus, albeit with a steampunk and David Lynch sense of production.
Cirque shows typically have a loose storyline, and this one required a quick internet search as the show started to see exactly what this one was all about. It actually doesn’t matter, but for the curious: a 19th-century inventor creates a machine that opens a tunnel to a strange new world and a train full of oddities spills out in his laboratory.
The set crackles with old-fashioned lightbulbs, music comes from old Victrola phonographs, and a diminutive woman named Mini Lili – who speaks French and lives in an elegant apartment inside the overcoat of a character named Mr. Microcosmos – appears unexpectedly like a “Twin Peaks” fever dream.
The high-flying stunts kick off with a woman riding a bicycle before it suddenly takes flight and she performs a series of tricks high over the stage.
A ringleader presides over a misbehaving group of invisible circus animals, followed by contortionists who cavort atop a giant steampunk finger – did I mention there is A LOT of steampunk aesthetic in this show? – and then the evening’s first big set piece gets underway and will, literally, have you seeing double.
A group of characters is having a jolly dinner at a large round table at center stage when the candelabra levitates. High up in the big top amid the lighting rigs, the same group appears to be having dinner – except they’re upside down. The main acrobats begin stacking chairs both up and down trying to reach the candelabra – and each other. It’s a dizzying, gasp-inducing moment as the acrobats scale the wobbly chairs.
The second act opens with a troupe of alien-like fish bouncing and somersaulting in a giant net stretched over the stage – gaining impressive air as they jump higher and higher. Two impressively muscled men perform an aerial duet that sends them soaring out over the audience.
The steampunk hand reappears to become a stage where a funny finger-puppet show is screened on a giant lantern suspended above the stage. And then there’s an extended bit of audience participation where a young woman is pulled on stage to contend with an actor who impressively – and hilariously –transforms into a cat.
The acrobat who climbs atop a rolling, wobbling bowling ball and series of platforms – both onstage and lifted high above it – surely has nerves of steel and no fear of heights.
The finale of the evening sees a large group of acrobats leaping from shoulders, seemingly running in mid-air, and performing other butt-clenching stunts that could easily end in a broken bone or three. They make it look fun and effortless, and their precision in these stunts is beyond impressive.
I’ll add a special note of praise for the live singers and musicians who accompany the scenes with a blend of whimsical circus-style tunes and what sounds like tango music. I actually went back and listened to the soundtrack on Spotify after the show.
“Kurios” is playing through Dec. 24, so there is plenty of time to grab a ticket. It’s perfect for the whole family. This is a Cirque du Soleil performance I would happily see again because there is so much to see and admire for both its simplicity and energetic performances. “Kurios” definitely earned the extended standing ovation it received at the end of the show. Cirque du Soleil might be familiar but it never ceases to amaze.