From the first strum of music, the awe-inspiring theatrical and acrobatic production that is Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA, captivates the audience and transports them into a magical world unlike any that’s ever hit Baltimore before.
As has been advertised for weeks now, the International power house that is Cirque du Soleil, has brought its KOOZA production to Baltimore. Known for producing shows full of acrobatic feats, and visually stunning performances, Cirque du Soleil has a reputation for being one of those things to put on your “Bucket List.” So this Thursday, when the Grand Chapiteau (their version of a Big Top tent) opened its curtains, we were there to see if it really lived up to the hype. The final verdict from both our veteran Cirque-viewers and rookies was a unanimous YES!
When you arrive at the tent you are greeted by stilt-walkers, jugglers, photographers, and balloon-makers, all painted in clown make-up (which for the Cirque shows look more like mimes than the big red-lipped clowns you see at the regular circus.) You are instantly overwhelmed with the atmosphere of the Cirque world. Once inside the lobby area of the tent the festivities continue. The gift shop takes over the whole front of the lobby, and though the merchandise might be too pricey for most college students, everything is so beautiful to look at, that you find yourself perusing all the aisles just to get a closer look. The lobby also has an area where you can view the souvenir photos that were just taken of your party outside the tent. Plus, there are multiple concession stands where everything from popcorn and pretzels, to paninis and chocolate mousse are served. (Trust us – the food is amazing!) Plus, you can bring your food and drink inside the main tent area to enjoy while you watch the show. There are high-def screens everywhere previewing the show and the music from the night plays overhead.
Once it reached a half hour before show time we were ushered inside the main tent to where the performance would be seen. As you walk up the stairs to get to your seat, you can’t see the stage. But once at the top, you realize that this venue is unlike any you’ve ever seen before. The stage comes out into the audience in a circle, meaning there truly is no bad seat in the house as everyone is facing the “front.” The seating is somewhat like ball-game seating, but there are cushions and so you are more comfortable then you would be watching the O’s. The tent, while claiming to be heated, was a bit too cold for our liking, so bring a sweater, but it’s nothing like being outside.
The show starts with some entertaining clown routines. This allows stragglers time to get to their seats before the real action begins. (The clown routines are disbursed throughout the show – and they really are funny. Not stupid gag humor that you would find at many other circuses, but actually laugh out loud humor. Though we do caution that it can get raunchy at times so just be aware.) Then the real show gets started. With a brief introduction to the story behind KOOZA, you are then transported into a different world.
Once the music starts, you know you are in for a good show. And don’t let the simple scenery at the beginning fool you – pretty soon the stage transforms itself, literally, as pieces move out towards the audience and flaps of the tent that once hid the entire set-up are peeled away. (This stage transformation was truly one of the most surprising and visually awesome moments of the entire night.) Then one by one, acts take to the stage, performing feats of acrobatic marvel that will literally have you saying things like “oh my god,” “wow,” and “no way” in your seats. From contortionists who bend their bodies in ways they were never meant to, to high-wire artists who are so high in the sky you have to bend your neck back to take it all in, to a unicycle act that revolves around a love story (something you have to see to understand). And that’s just the first half! After a 30-minute intermission (bring some extra tissues because the bathrooms run out of paper fast) where you can enjoy some dessert or refill your drinks, you are thrust back into the magical world of KOOZA. The second-half opens with a much darker routine, and if you don’t like drumming, then this part might not be for you. But then once again you are entertained by routine after routine of gymnastic skill, and technical superiority. Now, we have to admit that the second half of KOOZA is not quite as good as the first half. Though the acts are equally adept at their talents, and no one can question the amazing visual and daring routines they perform, the routines did not pack the same punch as those in the first half.
With both Cirque veterans (those who have seen more a Cirque show before – in this case a party member had seen two other versions of Cirque productions) and rookies amongst our group, we were able to get a sense of what everyone thought about the production. Our Cirque veteran was impressed with the show, though noting that some of the routines were very similar to the ones at the other tent Cirque shows they had seen. They also noted that there is a limit to how “daring” the acts can be because of the nature that the “Grand Chapiteau” is a temporary structure. But, our veteran spent the whole time with mouth ajar and uttering “wow” through the show, so you can see that they were still very impressed. Our Cirque rookies were even more impressed and were amazed at the acrobatic tricks they saw. They could not stop chatting about how “crazy” or how “amazing” the show was at intermission and after the show. The rookies kept saying that they were “so glad they came” and were overwhelmed by how the entire “tent” transports you into the Cirque world, noting that the ambience of the event is almost equally as impressive as the show itself.
Overall, we have to agree with all the hype and call Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA a definite “not-to-miss” show! If you’re lucky enough to be able to go see a Cirque show, you should definitely take advantage of it, because it’s one of those shows that everyone talks about, and keeps talking about, for months. And let’s face it – not everyone can get to the permanent Cirque shows in Orlando, New York, or Vegas. So with this amazing acrobatic production right here in Baltimore, it is an opportunity that can’t be missed!
* And on a special note – we at Collegetown are also excited to add that we can offer students a great discounted price to this show at http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/CirqueDuSoleil/en/special/koozapromo/BaltimoreStudents.htm