053116 Cirque du Soleil: Luzia, Montreal, QC

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For xmas m’lady and I received a wonderful present from her sister; a gift certificate for a night at a boutique hotel called Epik in old Montreal.  With no concerts on the horizon we decided to use this as an excuse to see the newest Cirque du Soleil touring show Luzia on May 31st, 2016.

The hotel was as fabulous as it looked on the website and was indeed in the heart of Montreal’s cobblestoned old town.  We checked in, jumped up and down on the king-sized bed, marvelled at the multicoloured LED spectrum that basked the shower in a rainbow of soft hues, and got out of there.

We couldn’t decide if we wanted to eat before or after the show so we attempted a compromise by stopping into a gourmet poutine restaurant for a meal-snack.  I think the place was called Montréal Poutine, we sat in the stone courtyard and each ordered a regular, shunning the impressive list of potential poutine toppings.

When the server dropped two massive, steaming plates in front of us we realized we had made a miscalculation – these were no snacks.  As good as it was, we both managed to finish our plates but there would clearly be no more eating tonight.

Imagine our shock when the waiter approached not with our bill, but with another plate of poutine, this one heaped with bacon.  “There was a mistake,” he explained in his thick French accent.  

“We accidentally made one order too many for another table.  You are the only people that have been nice to me so please enjoy this order of poutine on the house.”

We almost groaned out loud along with our thanks.  We were both stuffed to the gills but irresistible flavour, inescapable aroma, and a slight pang of obligation made the plate disappear in a hurry, along with a couple more beers.

We rolled out of there, rounded a corner or two at an escargot pace and easily spotted the Grand Chapiteau on the waterfront.  As much as I love the versatility of the permanent Cirque shows in their custom-built Las Vegas theatres there is something so identifiably magical about their touring tents.  The tents look part Suessian and part Hogwartian with a dash of Ikea for colour*; walking through the flap in the Cirque du Soleil big top marks the beginning of the fantasy.

As usual, Cirque was debuting their new show at home in Montreal before unleashing it on the world for the next 10+ years.  This one had a Mexican theme, which might sound a bit strange as the franchise has a permanent show in Mexico, though Joyà doesn’t really have any local content to speak of.  In fact the full title of the show is Luzia, A Waking Dream Of Mexico.  

It started with a clever scene that had the show’s main character dangling from the ceiling.  It was soon clear that he was skydiving, and we were along for his entire ride down.  He landed on the stage in a mock desert and spent the next two hours experiencing a water-deprived mind-bending Mexican hallucination in the form of hoop-jumpers, rope danglers, balancers, jugglers, and contortionists.  It was just as abstract as usual – which is to say the story was as discernible as it was interpretable – and easily on par with the best of their touring shows.

Two highlights: the second set opened with our protagonist on stage alone.  This is the standard ‘clown act’ that pretty much every Cirque show features, where the main character commands the stage with a schtick that is completely devoid of any traditional circus-type skill.  Some of these gags work better than others and this one was exceptional.  It was nothing but a mime act that had our skydiver throwing an imaginary ball into the audience but he worked it so well that the scene became a show-stealer.

The other highlight was the contortionist.  This guy was the bendiest contortionist I’ve ever seen or heard tell of.  His act was very disturbing and frankly, quite unbelievable.  If this was a Barnum & Bailey affair I wouldn’t have believed it for a minute – I’d certainly think there were shenanigans afoot. 

But this was Cirque du Soleil, so he was really turning his body inside-out like that.  I swear, most of the time I couldn’t figure out what direction his lower half was facing.  And just when you thought the guy couldn’t bend any more he’d bust the pose and thrust his entire upper body through his legs.  Heck, they brought the guy out in a suitcase.

Overall Luzia was another home run for the new greatest show on Earth.  I can’t wait to see what comes out of these guys next.

(Looking at my ticket ‘stub’ I guess prudence won a rare victory over obsession; I somehow opted not to pay the extra fee for hard tickets to this show and am left with a stupid computer printout.  I often throw these things away but for one reason or another I’ve kept a few of them.)

*Curiously, Cirque built an entirely new Grand Chapiteau for this show that was yellow and white instead of the usual Ikea colours of yellow and blue.  Apparently the new hues were inspired by the sun and moon and their importance to traditional Mexican beliefs.

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