Cirque du Soleil's Amaluna Unleashes a Tempest Force of Female Power
by Ellis Nassour
April 2, 2014
Cirque du Soleil’s iconic blue-and-yellow chapeau (big top tent) has risen adjacent to Citi Field in Queens, and the curtain has come up on Tony and Drama Desk-winning director Diane Paulus’ Amaluna, which is set to run through May 18.
Cirque had a huge success last year with Totem, its dazzlingly colorful show that offered a bit of a twist on the shows of the cirque that’s not a circus. So why not bring in Paulus, with her opera background, her theatrical work as artistic director of Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.), and red-hot success on Broadway with her award-winning revivals of Hair, Porgy and Bess, and Pippin?
This all-new (in theme, anyway) production, deeply rooted in theater, breaks new ground for CduS in that the cast is 70% female (including a most-accomplished female rock band under the direction of Janine de Lorenzo), and Paulus has created a show with creative director Fernand Rainville that draws force from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and Greek and Norse mythology. You can depend on dazzling costumes (by Mérédith Caron), interesting but often-weird character incarnations (such as Amaluna’s half human/half peacocks), whimsy, and always loads of enchantment from cirque-themed productions.
Amaluna goes a step further, with characters such as Queen Prospera (instead of the Bard’s Duke; Julie McInnes), who possesses magical powers; daughter Miranda (Juliia Mykhailova); lovelorn Romeo (a stand-in, no doubt for Ferdinand; Edouard Doye or Evgeny Kurkin), whose quest it is to marry Miranda; and Cali(ban) (Victor Kee), now half lizard/half human.
There’s plenty of intrigue and thunder and lightning on Amaluna, a mysterious island governed by goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon, where Prospera “directs her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony in a rite that honors femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance – and the passing on of these insights and values from one generation to the next.” Okay, but…isn’t there always a “but”? In a production as big as this, sometimes the story loses focus – especially for those not familiar with The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s most fascinating, wildly adventurous, and romantic tragicomedies, or the imagery of The Magic Flute.