By Jack Nichols
It was Steve's birthday and he and Gary-- celebrating the occasion together-- decided to count me in. Steve bought each of us—in advance-- a $60 ticket. It isn't likely I'd have paid this admission price on my own.
Could it be worth it, I wondered?
Broadway tickets, I know, sell for even more. But this curious circus with a French name is in Central Florida—at one end of downtown Disney. Its got its own tall building—a structure we enter from an upper level. Inside, the afternoon crowd has gathered in hushed anticipation. Could such an admission be worth the long drive or the walk in hot sun from the parking lot?
It's a mostly male cast in which certain female members stand out in grand relief. Gender, however, gets blurred with costumes that are androgynous. It sometimes appears there are more women in the cast than is the case.
And the males—spectacular athletes all-- manage to flash a kind of Show Biz joy that's so full of warm and happy-go-lucky feelings that dour machismo has clearly been put on the run.
This Cirque du Soleil—though boasting a mostly Euro cast—has performers, nevertheless, from every part of the globe. A coterie of young oriental girls spin large wooden spools on ropes they carry, flipping the spools high into the air, catching them squarely on the ropes, never dropping even one.
I begin to see that this show is not only a circus, but a ballet. Every athlete is also a dancer, and as the ongoing music envelops them, I promise myself to buy a soundtrack CD that's for sale outside the theatre. This circus music—arranged and orchestrated by Benoit Jutras-- is tantalizing. Taking home a token remembrance of the moods it creates seems suddenly a necessity
Steve had told me in advance that I'd be seeing acrobats and gymnasts. And though I expected to enjoy the sight of them, I'd never anticipated a spectacular like this. These performers climb upwards into the far reaches of the theatre from all sides of the stage. They ride on bikes, on wheels, on skates. Their presence, exuding good will and a love of fun, is overwhelming in its effect.
Never have I seen a cast so trusting—each member greeting the other in near- ecstasy as they catapult into each other's hands in nether regions above us. I keep thinking how they're moving, more than any troupe I've ever seen, in extraordinary unison, keeping perfect timing in the ever-present now.
To shine—as they do—in this kind of cooperative splendor means, I decide, that offstage the cast members must remain totally committed to each other and thus to the perfection in which this show revels. When, in the midst of incomparable stunts, they catch and support one another, I'm convinced that an equal trust must prevail even when no audience is watching.
Written and directed by Franco Dragone, La Nouba is, perhaps, the greatest testimony extant on stage celebrating the spirit of adventure. From Canada, France, Russia, Brazil and elsewhere—the stunt men and women are adventure's heroes and heroines incarnate. Though far from their homes they exude a kind of "on the road" gypsyism.
The total effect of La Nouba, once the show is complete, has been to shake me out of complacency in my admiration for these gypsy souls. Great theatre, after all, should inspire its audience to make a new start in life.
La Nouba—the Cirque du Soleil—does just this. I overhear a nearby family agreeing its been worth every penny paid. I haven't paid a cent, I think, but I nod at Mom and smile: "Amen."