The artistry and athleticism of Cirque Du Soleil is well known. Long a showcase for the human circus arts, one attends each production to see what confectionary concept will showcase the acrobats, clowns and other artists' talent. Zarkana transforms the grand Radio City Music Hall into a decaying, crumbling shell. The clowns, dressed primarily in white, greet the audience in the foyer as if they were the ghosts of performers past. Into this is woven the story of the magician, Zark (Garou) who pines for his lady love, the lyrical singer, Lia (Cassiopee). Unable to perform his magic, he undertakes a journey transforming the decayed theater into a fantastical world of beauty, marvel and the macabre. At many times during the journey Zark glimpses his love, yet only at journey's end is there the hope that the lovers will be united.
The Director of Creation, Line Tremblay has lined up a strong team to bring her vision to life. Stephane Roy, who designed the set, Alain Lortie, the lights, Eleni Uranis, the make-up, and Alan Hranitelj, the costumes have combined to build an immense spectacle. Each of the set pieces grows upon its predecessor whether a snake pit, a glittering spider web, outer space or a riotous bloom of roses. The costumes enhance the performers without hindering their athletic ability. Choreographers Debra Brown and Jean-Jacques Pillet provide a flow and complement the musical styles of composer and musical director Nick Littlemore and the overall direction of Francois Girard knits together well most of the story. The only fault with the story that The Thespian had was that Zark never completed the initial failed magic trick. The story would have been more complete if after his union with Lia he had proven that his magical abilities had returned along with Lia's love.
At its soul, Cirque du Soleil is always a showcase for the most talented acrobats, clowns and other circus artists. And Zarkana does not disappoint on this account. While the entire performance features strength, agility and an overflow of talent, there are several outstanding moments. The Thespian was thrilled by the Wheel of Death performed by Ray Navas Velez and Rudy Navas Velez. The strength of handbalancer Anatoliy Zalevskiy was breathtaking as was the lyrical performance of the aerial duet by Jun Guo and Di Wu. The lead clowns, Daniel Passer and Wayne Wilson, were personable and their amusing set pieces well received. The most astounding performance was by the sand painting artist Erika Chen, whose detailed work, projected on a large screen was simply breathtaking and her final artwork previewing the design for the next part of the performance was beautiful.
Cirque du Soleil is an excellent choice to fill Radio City Music Hall for the summer months. However, The Thespian cautions taking very small children to see Zarkana. While there is nothing objectionable that would make the performance specifically geared towards an adult audience, a few of the set pieces contain disturbing imagery that might frighten a small child. Parents should judge for themselves.
Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana will be performed at Radio City Music Hall in New York City through October 8, 2011. For tickets and other performance information please visit http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/zarkana/tickets/new-york.aspx