Cirque du Soleil’s first ever Broadway theater production is Paramour and it’s everything you hoped for. They really went bananas.
Now let’s get something clear: this is not a circus, it’s a Broadway play, a musical comedy, to be exact. But it has a lot of circus in it, including a solo juggler, Kyle Driggs. It actually has more circus in it than some of their other productions, such as Beatles Love. And there’s not just a theme, there’s a plot.
The plot is basic- a love triangle between a Golden Age of Hollywood (1930s) producer, AJ (Jeremy Kushneir), his muse, starlett Indigo (Ruby Lewis, who sings with a five-octave range and dances with splits and acrobatic moves), and her pal, Joey (Rya Vona). Who’s going to get the girl?
But it’s enough to make you care about the characters and it’s a functional structure to hang the song and dance numbers on, and the numerous sight-gags, and acrobatic routines, some of which are astounding.
The show opens with tap dancing and cane manipulation and morphs into a Busby Berkeley style song and dance number with a neon and argon staircase and sequined gowns and tuxedos.
AJ spots Indigo and falls for her hard. He takes her to the speakeasy for a drink and to offer her a role in his next film, promising to make her into a star as a way of manipulating her into his heart. She is starstruck, at least at first, and her pal Joey isn’t buying it. Meanwhile the speakeasy turns more and more decadent with ladies dancing and showing too much leg and the bartender tossing bottles and shaker cups up and around and catching them. There is a lot going on at once at this point so if you’re not watching closely you’ll miss his quick five club routine which consists of six throws of a multiplex split, and a five club flash.
A half hour in and the first actual circus routine appears and a girl is lifted on a hoop and does a three minute aerial sequence.
The next two scenes before intermission include extended circus routines. The real thing. Indigo is now on board and asked to take a couple of screen tests. She is shuffled from photo shoot to publicity stunts and she is starting to feel the pressure. AJ tells her to ‘drink more coffee,’ an apparent illusion (this is a family show) to the way the contract actors were over-worked and many began to abuse drugs and prescription medications (which of course killed Judy Garland, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole, Prince, and countless others).
In the first screen test she is playing Cleopatra. A mystical duo appear out of the pyramids and ascend skyward. This is veteran Cirque du Soleil duo, Kevin and Andrew Atherton. They appeared in Varekai, Iris, and more recently Zarkana at the Aria resort and casino in Las Vegas. Their duo straps routine takes them above the stage and in all directions overhead including over the entire audience orchestra section. With no net or safety harness of any kind. They are not only doing numerous tricks and contortions directly over your head, but being propelled around and around the theater and barely missing each other again and again by a hair. You’re not sure who’s going to die first when they crash and plummet, them or you. They safely land, eventually.
A sigh of relief and Indigo goes on to her next screen test as Calamity Jane. Set change- western theme. Whips cracking, lassos lassoing, and seven brides for seven brothers dancing (don’t blink or you’ll miss the ax juggling for about three seconds).
Someone brings out a seesaw for no apparent reason and the next thing you know the dancers are teeter boarding up and down on the thing like nobody’s business. Everyone does a flip or two until all other action stops and the last two cowboys try to out-do each other. What follows is the pinnacle of teeter board skills that would make anyone gasp. They not only progress from one difficult trick to another but it is just the two of them on the single prop, jumping, flipping, and precisely landing on the exact same spot so the other can fly and do his flip. Flip with a twist. Double flip. Double flip with a twist. Double flip with a double twist. On and on culminating with (are you sitting?) a quadruple flip.
The audience was on its feet and the lights go down. End of act one. Intermission
Act two begins with a dream sequence. The producer is pushing everyone to perform past their limits and the pressure is getting to folks. A weird surrealistic sequence follows.
Next up, the juggler!
Kyle Driggs appeared in Queen of the Night, ABYME, and Jay Gilligan’s Melodic Objects. He won a silver medal in the Cirque de Demain festival in Paris, and in 2013 he won the IJA individuals.
Kyle manipulates one, two, and three rings together with a folded umbrella, using the hooked handle as an extension of his limbs. He juggles the rings and umbrella in a fountain and segues into a balance with the umbrella on his chin and continues juggling the rings without stopping. He then juggles just the rings including back crosses where the rings roll over his shoulders for every throw, then classic body rolls (ala Bob Bramson) where the three roll over his back in a full shower pattern.
Back to juggling the four in a triple-single pattern, and back to a balance with the rings arranged on his chin and the umbrella delicately balanced on top. Back to tossing, this time with the umbrella opened, and a very effective high throw with the umbrella, juggle three rings in a cascade momentarily, then catch the opened umbrella.
In his award winning Paris (Cirque de Demain) routine he balanced the umbrella and juggled five rings, then did just the rings with a five-up 360. Why does he leave these out of his NYC routine? He doesn’t want to risk a drop.
After the juggler it’s back to the plot. AJ is on a power trip and gets the vibe he’s losing Indigo to Joey. He asks her to marry him. She must commit one way or another. Of course, keep in mind, “marriage is like a circus with three rings: engagement ring, wedding ring, and suffering.”
Next up, three aerial acrobats (two male, one female, obviously) do a high flying acrobalance routine while the leads sing the sappy, “Love Triangle.” Well, they can’t all be gems.
Eventually the conflicts are resolved but we barely notice because too many other things are going on at the same time, namely Jeremias Faganel doing cyr wheel, and Zhengqi Xia doing 3 diabolos.
To celebrate the conquest of true love against overwhelming odds, everybody and their cousin takes to the streets – actually to the rooftops – and starts to dance. The rooftops of New York (we left Hollywood and we’re in New York now where there are rooftops) are bubbling with life like a scene out of West Side Story, or La Boheme, and the roofs themselves look suspiciously like a number of trampolines. Led by Lee Brearley, Denis Kibenko, and Joe McAdam, all manner of friends, neighbors, and street urchins go flying, flipping, twisting, and barely missing each other, while falling up, landing on an elaborate scaffolding, and plummeting back for another triple flip. The effect is stunning. It’s not enough to feel the joy at the romantic finish, you have to jump for joy. So they all jump and take the jumping for joy literally and to an absurd extreme.
The production company includes a long list of seasoned veterans of theater and circus, and the director, Philippe Decoufle, and creative director, Jean-Francois Bouchard, have been leaders of the creative team of Cirque du Soleil since 1990 and 2001, respectively.
Cirque du Soleil started as a team of 20 street performers in Quebec and has evolved into a company that employs 4000 performers and staff from 50 countries.
Paramour is playing at the Lyric Theater in Times Square and is an ongoing and successful run, performing for sold out crowds. Seven days per week, with two shows on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.