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Friday, July 12, 2002

Cirque du Fatigue

We went to the Cirque du Soleil travelling show Dralion tonight and came away disappointed. Here is a corporation taking a successful formula and watering it down past the point at which it has lost its flavor.

We loved Mystére when we saw it in Vegas, and we found Saltimbocca enjoyable when it visited Portland a couple of years ago. But Dralion is a mere shadow of either of the prior two shows, and it will probably be our last Cirque experience unless we get in to see O in Vegas.

Long-time Cirque fans can't help but be critical. What has traditionally made this troupe so great? First and foremost, raw athletic talent. This show had less than either of the previous versions. Most of the talent this time around is a large group of agile, young acrobats from Asia, probably China. Although they dutifully marched through their paces, they were obviously tired, and sometimes just plain scared. "Safety" wires did a lot of the heavy lifting, and there was no joy in the ring, absolutely none.

Next, music and choreography that is great in its own right and complements the action under the big top. This time around, the music was interesting, but it didn't fit the performers or the show. Here are these great Asian tumblers flying through hoops, while some gal in a Hollywood jungle costume is jumping around doing African dances like that lady in the stands at a Blazer game. And those Chinese girls just are not enthusiastic about trying to mimic the arm movements of a Russian ballerina.

Next, comedy that borders on the obnoxious but always redeems itself with cleverness. In Dralion, the clowns are just annoying timekillers, period. Next to them the San Diego Chicken would have seemed hysterical.

The atmosphere wasn't helped much by the fact that someone ripped off five figures' worth of choice costumes out of the Cirque tent early on in the Portland engagement. Some of the replacement costumes looked to be hurriedly stitched together with Christmas tinsel.

But even the best regalia in the world would not have brought this performance up to the $70 per ticket level that a Cirque show demands. These kids would do a great job at a walk-in pavilion at Epcot Center, but they ought to to fold the tent up before this organization mars its name any further.

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