Who are we? That is the question that Totem, the new Cirque du Soleil act, explores as it traces the fascinating journey of the human species from its original amphibian state to the ultimate desire to fly. Inspired by myths, Totem, written and directed by Robert LePage and created by Neilson Vignola, illustrates through both visual and acrobatic language, our evolutionary progress.
The luxurious red velvet draped lounge is the site of the VIP area where privileged members of the audience are entertained with delicious hor'dourves, shrimp cocktails, roast beef sliders and drinks galore. Entering the private area, we were greeted by waiters and hostess offering a wide variety of delicacies. Not only did we get all the food we could eat, but we received am embossed copy of the program as well as a variety of other small gifts before being escorted to our excellent seats.
Since the turtle rests at the heart of many myths, legends and oral traditions, it is shown to represent the earth and carries the entire weight of the world on its shell. Underneath the covering, a large oval framework, representing the skeletal structure of the turtle, also serves as acrobatic equipment.
In the darkened auditorium, clowns and actors of various sizes and shapes entertained the audience in a warm up as they pranced around readying us for the show.
Your eyes glue to the center of the room where the "turtle-like" cloth began pulsating in its watery pond. Like Life, Totem is formed by water and life begins to form. The clowns scurried back to their places as from the center beam a silver clad figure, The Crystal Man, glided down to the stage igniting the action. Arms lift and voices unite as drums keep time and the ritual hoop dance celebrates the circle of life.
Fast forwarding to modern times, we see rivalry and seduction on the beach as two guys complete for one girl. Then reaping abundant harvest, they sow seeds of gratitude as the unicyclers bounce silver bowls back and forth with amazing accuracy.
The clowns come out now, fishing, but we don't want to forget those who walked before us.
From the chaos, more beauty arises as two compete with spinning saucers and hand balancers reach for moments of weightlessness. More scientific "experiments" come before the yellow lovers (one of my favorite parts) see the world from new heights and the tribes of the world come together in new celebration as they roller skate a love duet.
The Russian Bars break from gravity as the Crystal Man reappears and man becomes one.
Totem employs the strength of the body and the power of dreams as it progresses from one step to the next. Featuring Neanderthals, Cro-Magnons, primates, and men in suits - among others, the show shows a world of archetypal characters who witness and act out existential questions of life.
Kym Barrett's costuming entailed research into animals, birds and plants as well as cultural and tribal designs. At every opportunity, she emphasized the importance of the human body as an overall visual mosaic of the scene before us. Using a wide range of textures, colors and markings, as well as fluorescent pigments and crystal fragments, she recreated the species as it developed from animal to human causing the lighting to enhance the figures on stage.
Carl Fillion did set and props, while the music was composed by Marc Lessard and Guy Dubuc. Sound design was done by Jacques Boucher, while the fabulous make up was done by Nathalie J. Simard. Florence Pot did the acrobatic performance design that Jeffrey Hall choreographed. Pedro Pires did the production content design, as Etienne Boucher did the lighting. Gabriel Pinkstone was production manager, while Stephane Mongeau was executive producer.
Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian entertainment company, self-described as a dramatic mix of circus acts and street entertainment. Based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, it was founded by two former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix. Initially named Les Échassiers, they toured Quebec in 1980 as a performing troupe and now go around the world with various acts. Mr. Laliberte and Mr. Ste-Croix remain as artistic guides to the developing programs. They haven't stopped since 1982 and are still going strong, now performing in Europe.
Major sponsors are Visa and Wells Fargo Bank.
Our search for balance propels us faster and faster, but Totem is a show not to be missed.
Totem continues at the Orange County Great Park until Sunday, December 29 and resumes January 17, 2012, at the Santa Monica Pier. It continues there until mid-March, 2014. Tickets range from $69 -$600, which includes the VIP lounge and the backstage tour. The price depends on the date of the performance and the seats chosen. Groups are also welcome, but may not be able to sit together as many performances are already sold out or only have a few seats left. There are special rates for children, handicapped, students and seniors. More information can be had at Cirque Du Soleil.