Take the most gasp-worthy acts of a big top circus, minus the animals and the cheesy narrative from the ringmaster. Add the edge of a rock opera and throw in choreography that tells a story to the eyes. Polish the effect with the heartbeat of musical theatre. Garnish liberally with beauty, strength, awe, and humor, and you have the recipe for Cirque Du Soleil.
In its 16th year of touring, Saltimbanco made its Oklahoma debut at Oklahoma City’s Ford Center last week. The Saltimbanco arena tour, proudly presented by iShares, arrives this week for 5 days at The BOK Center in Tulsa, from December 10-14 inclusively.
Saltimbanco is more than entertainment – it is an experience. Just ask the guy in the Oklahoma City audience, who is ushered onstage in Act Two by a clown for a trip through a child’s imaginary jungle and wild west gunfight.
Saltimbanco is taken from the Italian “saltare im banco,” which literally means “to jump on a bench.” And if the meaning of the title isn’t readily apparent, wait until you open the program. The story of Saltimbanco traces the intricacies of life in the city. It explores the urban experience from the diversity and unity of the people, the families and cliques, the noise and the bustle.
However, without the program, you might not know that the singer with the flaming feathered hair is named La Belle, and she represents all human emotions. Or that the odd character with the half-cape and the red tights is actually a Baron attempting to rule without the authority to do so.
But there are themes that ring true even in the absence of interpretive literature. Early in the show, a man, woman and child intertwine limbs and bodies with amazing flexibility and strength, to clearly communicate “family” to the audience.
And in a breathtaking aerial ballet on the trapeze, two petite blonde beauties create a show of unity to take your breath. They perform as one person from the beginning where they arise as if a new creature of their oneness has been born, to one of the many climaxes where they symbiotically catch each other in beautiful and daring flying maneuvers.
The cast set the tone of the performance with the very first entrance, ushering audience members from the floor out of their seats and into the action. With squeaks, giggles, and a ton of body language, the performers make their message crystal clear. Making audience members part of the show and leaving spectators worried about what stunt they may become involved in next.
After acts of beauty or strength, one or more of the comedic cast members gives the audience a break from the awe. There is The Dreamer, a Dr. Seuss-like character with his tail, pudgy tummy and striped blue costume. The Dreamer is always ready to curl up for a nap, but is usually foiled by the antics of Eddy.
Eddy is a mischievous clown, a child who creates whatever he needs with the actions of a mime. He soon has the viewer understanding the whistles, kisses, and squeaks he uses to tell his story. He has help from the audience in constructing visions onstage that have him doing everything from braving roaring lions to nearly drowning in a bathroom stall.
Quebec-based Cirque Du Soleil began as a group of 20 street performers. Now, Cirque Du Soleil has five static shows on the Las Vegas strip and many more touring the globe. Saltimbanco touts a multi-talented cast of 49 from 21 countries around the world.
Saltimbanco may not have a story with “once upon a time” or “happily ever after,” but leaves the audience with the distinct impression that they know something they did not know before. Empowered and enriched, they savor life in the city just a little differently because of it.
Tulsa Performances are scheduled Wednesday, December 10 & Thursday, December 11 @ 7:30 p.m.; Friday, December 12 & Saturday, December 13 @ 3:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, December 14 @ 1:00 p.m. & 5:00 p.m. Saltimbanco tickets for the shows at BOK Center are now available and can be purchased online at www.cirquedusoleil.com or by calling 918-587-2322. Tickets range from $40 to $95 for adult and $32 to $76 for children (12 years old & under).
About the author:
Penny Ridenour writes for The City Sentinel in Oklahoma City, and prepared for Tulsa Today this special preview of the show coming to Tulsa this week.