Cirque du Soleil swings back through Eastside this month

The international sensation Cirque du Soleil returns to Redmond --- King County’s Marymoor Park, to be precise -- this April 24 to May 25. Since its inception in the 1980s, the Montreal, Quebec-based “Circus of the Sun” -- as translated in French -- has dazzled spectators with its reimagination of the circus concept, using no animals and showcasing the beauty of human movement.

  • Monday, April 7, 2008 7:24pm
  • News

In “Corteo” four women

The international sensation Cirque du Soleil returns to Redmond — King County’s Marymoor Park, to be precise — this April 24 to May 25. Since its inception in the 1980s, the Montreal, Quebec-based “Circus of the Sun” — as translated in French — has dazzled spectators with its reimagination of the circus concept, using no animals and showcasing the beauty of human movement.

The title of the production coming to Redmond, “Corteo” is derived from the Italian word meaning “cortege,” as in a funeral procession. The show’s central character is The Dead Clown, who watches over his splendiferous send-off from mortal life into the great beyond. Music, dance and acrobatics combine to illustrate the strengths and frailties which exist within all of humankind.

In a phone interview, we asked Alison Crawford, artistic director for “Corteo,” how average American audiences, weaned on reality-based musicals from “The Sound of Music” to “Jersey Boys,” are reacting to this show’s vaguely psychedelic premise. “Dead clowns” seem like they might be a hard sell.

Crawford laughed.

“This one is actually a little easier to follow (than past Cirque du Soleil productions),” she remarked. “It does have a story line, a theme, of a clown looking back at his funeral, looking back at his life and seeing who inspired him. This is an old circus so we meet acrobats, Little People (once called “midgets”) and a giant …”

As the show unfolds, The Dead Clown recalls both the quirks and endearing qualities of friends, lovers and co-workers.

Although the show is scripted, there is always a tinge of improvisation. That’s necessary “to take it to the next artistic level,” Crawford explained.

“They (the performers) come to me and say, ‘I’ve got a really good idea,’ and we look at it, he said.

When Cirque du Soleil last pitched its Grand Chapiteau (Big Top) in Redmond, the production was a huge boon to local restaurants, many of whom offered special discounts to Cirque patrons. But what do the performers typically do in host cities during their downtime?

“They love visiting new cities,” said Crawford. “The musicians love finding out where the great jazz bars are. But they usually have only one day off and like everyone, they sleep or do laundry when they get the chance.”

To learn more about Cirque du Soleil’s “Corteo,” or to reserve tickets, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.

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