If you’ve never seen a Cirque du Soleil show (or if it’s been a few years), then it might be the best time to change that. The world’s largest theater producer, best known for its thrilling circus-style performances, Cirque du Soleil is on tour this year in a number of cities with a lineup of spectacular shows, highlighted by Alegria, LUZIA, Crystal, VOLTA, Corteo, and Amaluna.
If you’re curious about Cirque du Soleil but have never attended a show, you might not be familiar with the differences between each production. To help you out, we chatted with Francis Jalbert, publicist for Alegría, to fill us in on what each Cirque du Soleil is about, the kind of music you might hear, and the kind of imagery you might see.
The plot: Alegría starts by depicting a kingdom that’s missing its king, so a “fool” declares himself heir to the throne. But other characters use the opportunity to call for change, portrayed through inspiring acrobatic performances. This show is a revival of one of Cirque’s most-iconic productions, which debuted in 1994 and is a fan favorite.
Expect to see: Fanciful, quirky characters performing colorful, artistic stunts, from a “fire knife dance” to angels soaring near towards the ceiling of the Big Top.
Expect to hear: A little bit of everything. Alegría’s score mixes electronic and rock music, from more stripped-down acoustical arrangements with lush orchestral soundscapes. The Alegría anthem is Cirque du Soleil’s most-downloaded song.
Fun fact: Alegría’s high bars routine–which takes places more than 30 feet above the stage–marks the first Cirque du Soleil show to feature female performers on the high bars.
Francis says: “Anything that you see in the show, has been looked through the creative lens of 2019. For example ... we do things on the trapeze that we didn’t even think would be possible. The acrobatic technology, the acrobatics involved have been pushed forward.”
The plot: Taking place in an imaginary Mexico, LUZIA invites the audience to witness different scenes in a vivid, whimsical world. The title is a portmanteau of two Spanish words: luz (meaning “light”) and lluvia (meaning “rain”), which refers to the show’s main thematic elements.
Expect to see: A Russian swing act under a red moon, a speed juggler performing at a breakneck pace, and a display of remarkable soccer skills amidst a downpour of rain.
Expect to hear: A diverse selection of Latin American-insipred music, from flamenco-esque huapango, to bandas brass-band tunes.
Fun fact: At one point in the show, performers dressed as hummingbirds jump through hoops that are only 75 centimeters in diameter (in other words, less than 30 inches).
Francis says: “In the center part of the stage, the floor goes down and it’s revealed there’s a pond underneath it, and we have vines coming from the ceiling, so we are recreating under the Big Top what we call a cenote or a natural sinkhole. And so we have an aerial strap act where the artist flies in the air and lands in this pool of water at the center of the stage. It’s just beautiful.”
The plot: Inspired by the energy of street sports, VOLTA combines acrobatics with BMX biking, skating, and more. The show follows a game-show contestant, named WAZ, who’s hoping to find happiness in new-found fame, but instead finds himself on an adventure to find his true authentic self.
Expect to see: Modern visuals, including a finale where the stage transforms into a giant BMX park, complete with ramps, flipping bicycles, and more. Costumes are also a sight to behold— they were designed by Zaldy Goco, known for his work with Lady Gaga.
Expect to hear: VOLTA’s music was written by M83, one of music’s most critically acclaimed synth-pop artists, known for his moody-yet-melodic electronic textures.
Fun fact: WAZ’s headdress is made up of 1,500 blue feathers.
Francis says: “It’s a show with a lot of energy on the stage. It’s very dynamic. and it speaks to a new doorway ... where we can reach to younger generations but also inspire older ones that can see Cirque du Soleil in a way they’ve never seen before.”
The plot: Based in part on the Shakespearean play The Tempest, Amaluna is a tribute to the work and voice of women. It takes place on a mysterious island, governed by a goddess who, as a birthday gift to her daughter, creates a storm that brings men (via shipwreck) to their shores.
Expect to see: A set design unlike any other, crafted to resemble a forest canopy, with 174 branches, which hangs above a revolving carousel. As for the performance, you’ll see unicycle tricks, a hypnotic peacock dance, and a number of gymnastic balancing feats.
Expect to hear: A raw, guitar-heavy score from an all-female group of musicians, who share the stage at times with the acrobats.
Fun fact: To design the musician’s attire, Amaluna costume designer Mérédith Caron was inspired by the fashion of k.d. lang, Roy Orbison, John Galliano, Tim Burton and The Village People.
Francis says: “You feel like you’re in this jungle atmosphere. It looks like palm trees hanging above the stage, above the acts. It’s very intimate and the artists are very present within the features walking around. It truly feels like you’re part of that community.”
The plot: The title character, Axel, is a young adult with two obsessions: graphic arts and music. Soon after we meet Axel, his world is turned upside down by the "new girl in town," Lei, who accompanies him on journey through whimsical, colorful new worlds.
Expect to see: Did we mention Axel is performed on ice? This show will feature impeccably choreographed figure-skating dance-offs, plus acrobatic stunts performed above the rink. Axel also adds arena-rock pyrotechnics, like flame throwers and lasers.
Expect to hear: A mixture of upbeat rock anthems and more raw, expressive tunes, all turned up to 11. Axel is primarily about a musician, so expect to see the title character playing guitar while on the ice.
Fun fact: Why is the title character named "Axel"? His mother was a ice skater, and his father was...a Guns N' Roses fan.
Cirque says: "The fundamental concept is trying to make a Cirque ice show an arena show. Make it feel like a rock concert, make it feel like a musical concert and/or a sports outing." – Fernand Rainville, the show's Stage Director.