Published on October 1st, 2016 | by Greg0
Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios: A Steampunk Circus Wonder
One of the biggest shows of the season just premiered last night- and not only is it not on Broadway, it’s on a whole different island. A giant circus tent has popped up on Randall’s Island- the Grand Chapiteau- right next to Icahn Stadium. And while many New Yorkers might head to a musical or an indie one-man play for a night out, we hope you’ll consider making the trek for one of the highest-flying, most compelling dramas in the city, showing nightly through Thanksgiving.
The latest touring show to hit the Big Apple is Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios, and it might just be the best Cirque we’ve seen since ‘O’. Each of their shows has something to appeal to different audiences- from one made for Beatles fans to the more-adult Zumanity, or even the plot-focused, classic-movie homage ‘Paramour’ (also playing locally, reviewed earlier this year). Kurios strikes a few major notes that we couldn’t help but love: a grab bag of steampunk themes with Parisian tones, a mix of ‘City of Lost Children’ and ‘Bioshock’ complete with bathyspheres and hot air balloons. There are dinner parties and pocket watches, conjoined twins and a giant mechanical hand, even an accordion man. The music seems standard Cirque, though a little more gypsy, with klezmer instrumentals and strong solo female vocals- similar to and comparable to ‘Alegria’, which is high praise.
The acts, when described on paper, will also sound familiar if you’re a Cirque fan. To be sure, the flying silks act isn’t technically impressive because of any particular feat- but the fact she uses a bicycle puts an intriguing twist to it. You’ll see a yo-yo act that elevates what seems possible, and a show-stopping juggler who is, literally, elevated. The crazy balancing stack of chairs might seem merely impressive… until the frame of reference twists. And when Mini Lili appears, you can’t help but be wowed, and won’t be able to take your eyes away. The fundamentals were as strong as ever- but the production and costumer design, lighting and theatrics were simply superior to others in our view (including Varekai, Turok, Amaluna, Zarkana, Ovo, Quidam, Totem).
There isn’t much of a plot, but that’s rarely held back a Cirque show. And not everything hits- the invisible circus section was a bit long for instance. Comedy is always a little divisive, but the clowning is solid and kid-friendly while still grabbing the adults. The audience participation bits are better than most, and the show moves along briskly, without the occasional slow moments that could drag other shows. We loved the fairly intimate stage, a bit smaller than most other productions, which brings you closer to the action. Kurios is also a focused show, with rarely more than one key thing to draw your eye, allowing you to enjoy every moment without feeling like you need to look in a million directions. The first half of the show alone is worth the price of admission, and though the finale was a bit underwhelming, the entire crowd seemed buoyed by the experience- around two and a half hours, with an intermission. It’s eye-popping fun, beautiful, and most importantly for a show like this it’s whimsical, spirited, and features some absolutely wonderful performances.
Kurios is strongly recommended, with tickets starting at $54. Even the most cynical New Yorker will be awed by the trampoline act, and the most jaded won’t be able to help smiling at the barking gramophone.