At Radio City Music Hall, Pre-speakers, pre-acrobats, pre-adventure. Already marvelous. 24 May 2011. Image by Martha Wade Steketee.

I am a romantic when it comes to words, and a harder sell when it comes to visual splash and dance and swaths of theatrical color to tell a story.  I admit I pounced on my blogger press invite to a pre-opening morning presentation of the newest Cirque du Soleil extravaganza, crafted for a run at fabled Radio City Music Hall because, frankly, the event was being held AT Radio City Music Hall.  A privilege to be welcomed into the venue not for a tour but as a guest with benefits, to have the freedom to snap away at what I saw of the building itself, let alone the creations on stage.  The image at right captures my wonderment before the games begin.  And those reading this who are veteran attendees of events in this space know this feeling well: give me whatever you got, entertainers, because frankly you have big shoes to fill.

Daniel Lamarre, Cirque du Soleil President and CEO, provides human-scale context. Image by Martha Wade Steketee.

Zarkana, the “spectacle” written and directed by Francois Girard, features a magician character and circus arts and backstage fantasy and onstage rock musicians, is revealed at this event by four segments in varying states of readiness.  If these fragments are any indication of the final production (set to open on June 9, 2011 and run through October 8, 2011), attending crowds will be delighted. “Sand painting” is literally that, with a performer center stage at a large drum-like sand drawing board illuminated from within.  Two additional pieces not yet completely costumed, still being finalized, and have great acrobatic promise: “Pickled Funeral” and “Banquine”.

A fourth sequence, the second piece presented, may indeed be the segment that will make all the headlines.  It seems to be a Wicked meets Spiderman rumination, in all the best ways, as aerialists and acrobats might imagine those worlds.  The large-scale image below captures a bit of the wonder.  As your eyes focus you see human forms crawling over every possible surface, then swinging through the air, sometimes falling, safely, to the visible net below, then triple and quadruple somersaulting their way into wonder once again.  I am a convert to this performance style and anticipate the complete performances beginning in June.

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© Martha Wade Steketee (May 26, 2011)

Cirque du Soleil “Zarkana”. Press preview performance 24 May 2011. Image by Martha Wade Steketee.

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