Monday, August 8, 2011

Publicists? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Publicists.

I am a tastemaker.

In first grade, I brought my Phantom of the Opera coffee table book for show and tell, and by the next month, everyone else had one.  In second grade, my name for a four square move where you bounce the ball off your buttocks (the “bouncy poo”) entered the schoolyard lexicon.  In third through sixth grade, my peers studied every word I spoke and action I took that that they might ostracize me more effectively.

While my cultural prescience and innate understanding of The Hip has always been self-evident, leave it to one group to recognize the extent of my sway: Cirque du Soleil.

Cirque du Soleil, in case you’ve been living beneath a Ringling Brothers rock, is a Montreal-based organization that decided in the mid-80s that circuses didn’t have to be cheap populist entertainment.  They could be expensive.  Instead of three rings, Cirque has elaborate, proscenium-based sets.  Instead of canned music, they have live musicians.  Instead of dancing bears, they have French Canadians.

To provide food and disability for the performers, Cirque’s shows have obscene budgets.  Accordingly, it’s very important that each show attract audiences and sell well.  Their last New York venture (Banana Schpeel) slipped on its namesake, so with their newest show (Zarkana), Cirque du Soleil is taking no chances.  They’ve thought out their campaign; they’ve called out the big guns; they asked me to blog about it.

Prospective acrobats, I would never question Cirque du Soleil’s attention to detail, but are these really the people you want to fire you out of a cannon?  For example, when soliciting bloggers, they neglected to note that (a) my blog is dedicated primarily to keeping people out of India, and (b) of those who read my blog, 50% gave birth to me.  Nevertheless, Cirque's oversight is my underwritten ticket, so I blog herewith: 

Zarkana is the $60 million show with stunning visual effects, minimal plot, and incomprehensible songs that isn’t Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.  Watching Cirque du Soleil for story is like reading Playboy for articles, but between the show, the program notes, and debriefing with my fellow Cirque-goer, Ya’ir, here’s what I was able to figure out:

Zarkana is about a French Canadian magician (Zark) who loses his French Canadian powers and wanders through Radio City Music Hall to find his girlfriend who’s not a Rockette (Lea).  Along the way he meets a juggler, ladder balancers, ring spinners, wheel hoppers, tightrope walkers, rope twirlers, flag wavers, sand shapers, trapeze jumpers, every gymnast in China, and a really bendy guy.  These people don’t help Zark in his quest, but the stuff they do looks amazing and, unlike Spider-Man, kills neither actor nor audience.

In his search for Lea, Zark’s antagonists are four mutants—a woman in a tree, a woman in a sleeping bag, Malificent reimagined as a disco ball, and a talking baby.  We know they’re villains because they distract Zark from singing his new-age couplets (“I’m sailing on a ship made of light / I’m dancing on a stage that’s just out of sight”), as he realizes that he’s now sailing on a ship made of talking baby.

Finally, the long-sought Lea lowers from the sky and sings “I’ve been inside you all along,” by which she suggests she’s a tumor.  The curtain falls, and the audience considers a career in oncology.

While the plot may leave some things to be desired—such as a beginning, middle, and end—the circus acts themselves do not disappoint.  Even something as simple as juggling becomes a wonder to behold in Cirque’s well-financed hands.  By the time you build up to the marquee acts, such as the acrobat brigade (“banquine”) or aptly named Wheel of Death, you’re so enthralled that you’re hardly wishing for Zark to be struck by said wheel.

And the entertainment extends beyond Zarkana itself.  Before the show, you can take your picture with the Cirque clowns or the screaming children who surround them.  At intermission, you can use the program to play games like “Is this the name of a Cirque du Soleil show or a piece of Ikea furniture?” (e.g. Effektiv, Ovo, Besta, Wintuk).  Then, after the show, you can play “What happened for the past two hours?”

And you’ll have many chances to play because Zarkana is running at Radio City for the next five summers.  So if you enjoy seeing dazzling spectacle, expensive sets, and Canadians in dangerous situations, why not contact Cirque du Soleil and buy a ticket?

Or, if you have a blog unrelated to entertainment, chances are Cirque will contact you.

Zark Meets Lea, Zark Loses Lea, Zark Reconsiders His Life Choices
Disco Ball Maleficent

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