From the big blue and yellow Grand Chapiteau tent to the intricate costumes and dazzling lights, no detail is forgotten in Cirque du Soleil’s show TOTEM, which began its run at Atlantic Station on Oct. 26 and will continue through Dec. 30.
The talented performers completely own the stage while involving the audience in a grand spectacle worthy of the renowned Canadian circus. TOTEM takes the audience on an epic journey about the origin of mankind, beginning with acrobatic amphibians and finishing with stellar space gymnasts. The show integrates early myths and imagery into a fantastical excursion through time. Not your typical Sunday night in Atlantic Station.
Anticipation stirred the crowd as performers wove through the aisles, delivering laughs and tricks while people found their seats. The big top was surprisingly small on the inside, but no less grandiose. A closer look at the performers walking through the audience revealed wildly theatrical make-up, and considering the ominous swamp-like atmosphere, it was if the audience had stepped inside a Tim Burton movie.
Tribal music signaled the start of the show, and a performer dressed like a disco-ball descended from the ceiling. At that moment, it was clear that the audience was in for a good show.
The music of TOTEM reverberated through the big-top, guiding the show and bringing a rock and roll vibe to Cirque du Soleil. Performers danced across the stage led by electric guitar and tribal rhythms. Yet, musicians did not rely on traditional instruments. Pots and pans, giant test tubes, clapping hands and stomping feet added assorted rhythms to the acts. The live music and voices drove the performances and the actors never missed a beat, performing their tricks with precise timing and palpable energy.
TOTEM features astounding performances from its cast, taken to the next level, with the actors truly portraying emotional characters as they perform their tricks. Flying through the air with the greatest of ease, the entertainers perform gymnastics of Olympic proportions.
Actors did about every trick imaginable, bravely thrusting themselves into the air while balancing on 50-foot poles and tossing each other towards the top of the tent. Each trick became increasingly daring, usually ending with performers literally hanging by a thread and audience members on the edge of their seats.
One trapeze act was particularly compelling, for although the actors were performing gravity defying stunts, the act was driven by the electric chemistry between the two actors. The actors pushed themselves physically and emotionally in TOTEM to the audience’s awe and enjoyment.
The show is an eclectic mix of humorous and enchanting. Slapstick comedy divides the more intense acts with silly jokes and clever routines. A crowd favorite, the Italian comic Pippo Crotti, would do just about anything for a laugh, often at the expense of the other performers. In one scene, he confidently appears on stage in a bright yellow speedo and flexes with muscular beach boys.
Of course, given her options, a beach girl is taken with Pippo and with all the self-assurance of PepÃ© le Pew he escorts her offstage, much to the dismay of the muscle boys and the delight of the audience.
Fabulous costumes complement the stellar performances in TOTEM. The costuming continues with the theme, incorporating minute details from early cultural dress. There are Native American characters with elaborate bead and feather headdresses and outfits, which adds to the drama of their act.
The intricate East Asian themed costumes in a unicycle act of five girls are as mesmerizing as the bowls they kick and balance atop their heads as they circle the stage.
Sometimes the costumes contain surprising elements, such as one Native American dance scene that featured actors gliding on a drum with roller-skates.
The Ring Master’s hat doubled as a flash-light, which was both functional and wicked cool. Costume served a very clear purpose in another scene, in which the evolution of man is depicted from gruff primate to Neanderthal to modern businessman. The beautiful costumes add to the encompassing imagery of the show and the magic of the Grand Chapiteau.
Cirque du Soleil creates world of fantasy, taking the elements of performance and exaggerating them tenfold.
Every portion of the show is greatly embellished and nothing is exactly what it seems. Even the over-sized props captured audiences, either with their sheer size or with their outlandish purpose.
One of the best acts featured an observant professor, who turned out to be a juggler. However, he did not simply juggle. The professor was placed in a giant, upside down laboratory flask and propelled multi-colored balls of light around the flask at great speed.
A fog machine aided the professor in his task, filling the flask and completing the sensory overload already on stage. The visual appeal of the act had the audience spellbound, and the “potion” of sorts turned the professor young again.
Every bit of this show is remarkable. With astounding strength and excellent showmanship, the performers in TOTEM are fabulously entertaining. Cirque du Soleil is known for taking audiences into another world, with actors taking physical and emotional risks to please audiences.
No detail is missed in this show, and TOTEM gets high marks for costumes, music, and props. The entire atmosphere of the TOTEM serves its purpose, allowing audiences to leave their cares at the door and escape into a world full of laughter and wonder. For fantastic performances and a good time, TOTEM is a show you don’t want to miss.
– By Jordie Davies