Published on March 19th, 2013 | by Kira0
Cirque du Soleil’s Totem: A Spectacular Evolution
I am a Brooklyn and Manhattan girl, so, this was my first time on the 7 train; thankfully there is an express option. Queens looks a lot like Brooklyn: lots of homes and the standard deli corner stores. The farther you go out, the closer you get to the Mets Stadium and to a sight you may never have expected to see in the New York City area: a collection of looming bright blue and yellow stripped tents. Just like the circuses of old, except shinier. As the train comes to a halt at the station you would normally stop at for baseball games, you feel the anticipation build inside you. You are not only going to the circus tonight, but perhaps the most spectacular circus in the world.
As you walk into Cirque du Soleil’s Totem’s giant tents and you are thankfully welcomed by heat, venders, free fun treats, and a woman being body painted, but it is inside the largest tent that the magic happens. This venue is completely different from the Radio City version last year, for better and worse. It is smaller, more intimate, more authentic, and old school. I really loved how the lighting bounced around the tend ant how almost every seat had a great view for the stage. The biggest downside is that the seating is very tight, I felt cramped and audience members do not get much smaller than me. I also liked how convenient Radio City is versus going to the far reaches of Queens. The ambiance is a little lost knowing you are set up in a parking lot and the bathrooms are a nice version of a porta potty, which can’t compare to Radio City’s beautiful building. That being said, once the show started and nothing else mattered.
I found Totem to be the least cohesive and plot driven of all the Cirque du Soleil shows I have seen, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I consider it to be more of a positive. I normally find the odd plot distracting and not well thought out enough to give it any meaning. I found this mood of evolution and legend to be more like how a fashion editorial has a story. It is a consistent theme that ties the acts together, that might be pretty vague and open to interpretation, which is all I feel the Cirque du Soleil needs. It is much more about the acts, the spectacle, and the visuals than the plot.
On to the main attraction: act-wise, I felt Totem was one of the stronger shows I have seen. The opening was absolutely beautiful and exciting with a spinning descending silver man who joins some incredibly costumed frogs in the frame of a turtle shell. The silver man starts off the acrobatics with flips and spins on the bones of the shell. The frogs quickly chime in, keeping in character the entire time. I adored their expressions and mannerisms down to the frogged legged spins. In addition to the opening act, there were the dueling trapeze lovers, who while playfully fought clearly had more trust in each other than I ever have had in anyone. The male would repeatedly spin the female and quickly catch her with his feet or something else impossibly hard. Then there was the team of unicycle riding bowl throwing ladies. Not only are they riding super high unicycles, but they are throwing bowls with their feet and catching them on their heads. There were a few mess ups, but I would have assumed these girls were not human if there hadn’t been. There was also a set of twins who spun small squares of fabric like they were pizzas with their hands, feet, while balanced on top of each other, and all that the same time! I also loved the sexy roller skating duo of spinning doom. The very strong looking male would pick up the girl by her hands, neck, or skates and spin her super fast. I stared in shocked amazement, and fear that he might crack her head on the stage.
Like every good circus, you will have your clowns. Totem went nontraditional this time with a slightly crazy fisherman and an obnoxious Italian tourist as their comic relief. There was a vague evolution them to the show, down to Darwin and his boat, the Beagle 3, popping in and out of a few acts, including his own juggling act with glowing balls in a glass “scientific” vat. Monkeys were also used as comic relief, and one of my favorite parts of the show was when they lined up the moneys, cave man, and a business man into the famous image of The March of Progress. As a scientist who is in the arts I often found myself chuckling at the artist interpretation of science in the show.
My vote: go see it! The costumes and set are incredible. I was constantly mesmerized by the transformations the small stage went through, from beaches to space to a motor boat. Expect to be sitting in slightly cramped and somewhat cold conditions if the weather outside doesn’t cooperate, but the performance is fun and will leave you drained of all the wows you can say. The tickets range from $55-$140, though VIP tickets cost a bit more, and it is running until May 12.