Cirque du Soleil's Delirium
Sunday, March 4, Kohl Center, 8 p.m.
There'll be frenzied, hallucinatory excitement at the Kohl Center on Sunday. Nope, I'm not talkin' about high school basketball tournaments. It's Cirque du Soleil's first-ever Mad City appearance with Delirium, the latest extravaganza from the Montreal-based ministers of psychedelic spectacle.
Delirium's stirred up some controversy. Reviewers love it, but the public seems confused. Entertainment-related chat sites are chockablock with competing commentary ' 'No acrobats, don't blow your bucks,' versus 'More music and less trapeze but still plenty of everything ' great show, beyond description!'
What's the dish? 'People should know Delirium is a completely new type of live entertainment,' says Carmen Ruest, director of creation for this production. 'We like to take risks. Delirium's not a typical Cirque show, where we carry our own big-top environment and set up at each stop for two to six weeks. This is a show for short hops at big arenas. It's not family-oriented ' it's too late and too loud for little kids. It's a concert tour, for teens on up. We wanted to take the beautiful original music from our previous productions and put it center stage.'
The challenge, Ruest says, was how to bring the big-top feel to enormous stadium venues. The solution was to create environment with images. Cirque technicians invented new video technology that transforms arenas with gigantic screens and scrims. The stage runs down the center of the floor's long axis, with the audience seated on both sides.
The multimedia melange surrounds the spectators in a sensual synergy of music and motion. Live performances and prerecorded videos are layered with manipulated live feeds ' automated and human-operated cameras scan the ambience, while a DJ and light technicians constantly adjust sound and color.
In the 45-member, all-pro, diverse cast are six lead singers with an electro-pop/worldbeat backup band, 12 dancers, nine acrobats and Bill, the main character, who leads the audience through his 20-tableau dream sequence built on Cirque's top 20 songs.
In Delirium, dance is prominent. 'For the first time, the choreography in our show is really dynamic,' Ruest says. New York-based contemporary choreographer Mia Michaels, who's also created works for Madonna, Ricky Martin and Celine Dion, did the job. There's hip-hop, aerial dance, tango and pop in the live mix.
For one prerecorded Terpsichorean effect, dancers on bungees were filmed on green screen so the cords could be edited away. 'It looks like they're flying, or falling out of space,' says Ruest. 'For another shot we used flamenco dancers, but only their arms. We multiplied the images so it looks like thousands of arms, and flipped the film so they seem like seaweed undulating on the bottom of the sea.'
When the show starts you won't be in the Kohl Center any more, Ruest says. Let yourself go on the trip. You'll be delirious with delight.