A group practices a segment of the show where performers do acrobatics with hoops. Cirque du Soleil is in town through Sunday, with performances tonight and Friday night, and two shows on Saturday and Sunday.
by Monica Orosz,Daily Mail staff
Thursday September 13, 2012
Charleston, WV--Patrick Kelly took the sensible approach to running away and joining the circus - he waited until his children were grown.
In 2008, Kelly tried out for Cirque du Soleil, landing a gig as a guitarist for the show's band. His first job was with a production in Japan; he joined the current tour of Cirque du Soleil's Dralion show in June.
Dralion's theme is an East-meets-West one and the name is a blend of the words dragon and lion. As with all Cirque shows, it blends acrobatics with theater, using colorful costumes, dramatic lighting - and live music.
I was very lucky," the native of Quebec, Canada, said of his timing to try out for Cirque. "It was a moment when they were doing three new shows. And they offered me a job to play in Tokyo."
Now a world traveler, Kelly says he loves it. This week, the show stopped in Charleston, where it has seven shows scheduled at the Charleston Civic Center through Sunday.
"It's fun to change places and be in a new hotel room, to discover another town," Kelly said. Each stop offers opportunity to explore.
"When we arrive, the technical team has to unload and install in the arena. While they are doing that, the performers have two days off, most of the time a Monday and Tuesday," he explained. The company gives everyone a list of amenities and places of interest.
Kelly comes to the show with many years of experience. He first picked up the guitar at 12 and played in a pop band in high school. He got a degree in jazz guitar in college, though jazz wasn't particularly his interest.
"I don't play jazz at all - it was the program," he said. His career included playing with major recording artists in Quebec and working as a composer and producer.
It was hard work, he added, because he always had to string together jobs to make a living.
"I toured with artists who were well-known in our region, but the number of shows a year was a maximum of 80 to 100 and a musician like me would have to find other skills," he said.
Kelly's first Cirque assignment found him front and center on stage, too.
"I had three appearances on stage. I was a warrior. I wasn't the focus, but people were looking at me," he said. "It was a lot different from what I do now."
Depending on when a performer joins a show, he or she has varying input into the production.
"If I'm hired to do a new creation, we prepare a lot. And I could be with the band where maybe half the songs don't have the guitar part written yet," he said.
"But when I came to Dralion, it was 12 or 13 years old. The guitar part is sort of a legacy. I was respectful of the color of the show. I couldn't startle the performers with something new."
Kelly said he spent time listening to the show's soundtrack so that he could catch every nuance of his music and sound exactly like the guitarist
before him - to the point he realized he needed some new equipment.
"It took me maybe a week and a half and I was integrated into the show," he said, recalling his first night with Dralion.
"I was hoping no one noticed they changed guitarists," he said. When he got on the bus after the show, "Everybody applauded me."
And he knew he'd gotten it right.