Thursday, December 3, 2009

Review: Banana Shpeel, by Cirque du Soleil

In all fairness, I must disclose all the facts before beginning my review: I left at intermission. And while that breaks about every code of honor in the reviewing world, I can honestly say that after an hour and a half I had seen enough.

The Cirque Du Soleil name has become synonymous with ingenious innovation, captivating design, and breathtaking circus acts. People come to expect that when purchasing tickets to see one of their productions. This show, however, is none of that. I have unspeakable love for Cirque's body of work and feel terrible that this review is unfolding this way, but I cannot help but feel cheated by the performance that I saw. Who knows, perhaps the second act was stunning and it is my loss for leaving when I did, but if a production makes no effort to keep me in my seat, I feel no reason to stay.

The show opens with a too long series of comic vaudeville bits that runs entirely too long and that was poorly written. Within five minute of the beginning of the performance, you could already feel the audience growing uncomfortable - the actors were doing a good job with what they had and the audience knew when they were supposed to laugh, but the writing was just not funny. What this production needed was a giant canen to appear from the wings and sweep all the acts from the stage; it would have fit the vaudeville nature of the show and given the audience a break.

The show had excellent choreography and performance in the two dance numbers in the first half. However, if I was to choose to see a show for it's dancing, Cirque wouldn't be at the top of my list. Then there were the circus arts. Only two acts appear in the first act - a hat juggler who is quite excellent, but the idea of juggling hats seems a little tame for my idea of cirque - and a couple of hand to hand acrobats. They too were good at what they did, but their routine only had about five or six throws or flips and too much dance. I've seen more acrobatics from the cheerleaders at a Big Ten football game.

I'm not trying to trash this production. For what it was, it was a good show. I'm simply disappointed because I've come to expect certain things from a Cirque Du Soleil show and this one definitely didn't deliver. I am more worried for those people who are having their first experience with Cirque Du Soleil with this production - they are not being given a fair representation of how truly amazing these performers can be.

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