by DICK KEREKES
North Florida residents have a rare opportunity to see a Cirque Du Soleil show right here in Jacksonville. The closest show of this type in Florida is the permanent one located at Disney in Orlando and can be seen at much greater expense and prices than right here in downtown Jacksonville. This reporter has seen several such shows in Las Vegas and this one is equal in quality to those.
Alegria means joy or jubilation in Spanish, and is supposed to be a story about power struggle between generations that is told by the various acts. But to the overwhelming majority of the appreciative audience opening night (and to this writer), it was a spectacular of song, dance, costumes and acrobatics. Performed on a double stage, one raked and a diamond shaped main stage; it is a visual delight that defines description in words.
A character known as Fleur acts as sort of a Master of Ceremonies and he is certainly an odd looking fellow with a hunched back, a beer belly and wearing a black bowler, a jeweled vest and a red velvet jacket.
The show is narrated by songs sung by a character known as White Singer; she sings marvelously in several languages. You will have the feeling of being in a French cabaret at times; there is so much accordion music.
The real stars of the show are the various acts performed by this large cast of 55. It is difficult to give you a favorite, they were so good. Among the audience favorites judging by applause were: The fire-knife dancers, acrobats who performed twists and flips on an X shaped trampoline, trapezes artists, a flying man who bounced high above the arena using bungee cords, graceful contortion artists, high bar aerialists and Cyr wheel performer.
There are lots of clowns who perform visual humor between the various acts. The most hilarious was one riding a fake horse; you have to see it to appreciate it. If you are going to see the show and will be sitting in some of the upper level seats (which are excellent by the way), and if you own or can borrow some binoculars, do so. When there is just one clown in center stage it can be difficult to see their wonderful facial expressions.
There are no free programs of any kind provided so you can know the names of any of the acts or performers. You can purchase an elaborate and rather expensive one from vendors. My suggestion is to get on the internet and search Alegria Cirque du Soleil and you can print off information that will enhance your enjoyment of this unique show.
There were lots of ooh and ahhs from adults on the amazing precision performances of the talented artists and lots of giggles and laughs from the many younger children who seemed to be mesmerized by the clowns.
Cirque du Soleil runs through Sunday July 3 with performances at l pm and 5 pm. It is a rare opportunity to see a show that debuted in l994 and has played to over 10 million people in more 65 cities and now we are one of those lucky cities.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL ALEGRIA
by DICK KEREKES