If, by any chance, you’re still looking for something fun to do with your visitors this holiday weekend, I highly recommend Cirque du Soleil’s incredible “Corteo” now playing at the T-Mobile Center. This is family entertainment of the first order; unlike almost anything you will ever see. It will rekindle your childhood dream of “running away to join the circus”.
Corteo is a massive production by Cirque du Soleil in Montreal. It took an incredible twenty-five semi-tractor loads full of costumes, sets, make-up and all manner of services to get this army of performers and staff to show up in our town for a four-day run. The cast of the tournament is 108 people. Half of these are performers from twenty-eight countries around the world. Corteo has been touring the world since 2005. And then they hire another forty people from the community to become part of their family in Kansas City.
Corteo is a deceptively simple idea, brilliantly executed from the mind of renowned Swiss clown and director Daniele Finzi Pasco. An elderly circus clown in the European tradition, Mauro, has lived a good life. As he passes from this life to the next, the circus people he shared the experience with pass by and perform before him one last time. Mauro is accompanied by a host of angels flying around the stage. “Corteo” is Italian for procession, parade associated with a funeral.
When I first heard the concept, I admit I thought it might be a downer. I was wrong. Corteo is a tender, beautiful, thoughtful, funny and extremely athletic celebration of Mauro’s life. If you’ve ever wondered what happens to all those Olympic-level gymnasts after the games close, I suspect you’ll find many of them touring one of Cirque du Soleil’s seven touring productions.
I had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour earlier in the day. The size and complexity of this operation boggles the imagination. Like any traditional circus at the time, the first thing encountered was the kitchen area where food is prepared for the crew and performers. This may seem a little plebian, but anyone who has spent time around Ringling Brothers or Circus Vargas knows that the cook tent is the beating heart of the circus family. The tradition continues with Corteo.
These people are athletes who put on extreme performances. Corteo travels with in-house medical staff, massage therapists, costume repair people and even a cobbler. They are actors, comedians, aerialists, acrobats, jugglers, musicians and dancers. There is even a giant person and two married little people, Valentina and Gregory.
A favorite scene, near the first act closer, is the little person Valentina suspended almost weightlessly from a bunch of huge helium-filled balloons. She is left free to float above the audience and land at random. Audience members are encouraged to grab Valentina and push her back into the air and toward the stage. Surely, you remember as a small child trying to keep a helium balloon suspended in the air forever. The audience loves to become a small part of the show.
Act II is more filled with trapeze flyers and aerialists along with a climactic, spectacular, multi-gymnast high-bar routine as the high bars are arranged in a square and stage right and stage left. All the bars are immediately occupied as the flyers try not to collide with each other. The circus ends with a final procession as Mauro ascends to heaven on a bicycle flown twenty feet above the stage floor accompanied by his angels.
The poor description shared above does not allow Corteo the justice it deserves. If you go, I promise you will be surprised, fascinated and thoroughly entertained. You will be impressed by the complexity, the attention to detail and the smoothness with which it is all presented.
Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo continues at T-Mobile Center through Sunday, May 28.