Cirque du Soleil has returned to the New York stage with Zarkana, its first production in the Big Apple since last year’s financial disaster Banana Spheel. This time around the Cirque du Soleil production is taking a $50 million, 800,000 pound stage risk at the Radio City Music Hall, one that will require they sell 6,000 Zarkana tickets for every performance just to break even.
While the Guy Laliberte has never shied from pushing the envelope, in Zarkana he has taken a step back from his company’s attempt to deliver a story in vaudeville style last season. The strength of Cirque du Soleil has been its flair for aerialists, contortionists, clowns, and other Big Top acts. Zarkana returns to this formula, according to New York Times theater critic Charles Isherwood. He describes the new show as a “traditional company presentation outfitted in extra layers of lavish digital technology and lush, exotic art direction” in his review from opening night a couple of weeks ago.
While Zarkana does offering all the fixings fans are used to and look forward to, the show does push some creative bounds within that framework. The plot of Zarkana focuses on forlorn magician Zark, as he laments over the loss of the woman he loves and is thrust into a dreamlike underworld. So, there is some semblance of a plot, but nothing as structured as Banana Spheel. Also, Zark sings in English rather than in the fantasy language Esperanto.
This Cirque du Soleil production may be the show most inappropriate for audience members suffering from motion sickness. The entire production set seems to be alive, with chilling ghosts and serpentine lines of performers climbing the back of the set like living wall paper and video effects that may take away from the celebration of the boundless possibility of our human bodies.
Zarkana is a seasonal production, so those interested in seeing the new creation at the Radio City Music Hall have until October 8, 2011 to purchase Zarkana tickets before the production transfers to Madrid from November 9, 2011 to January 1, 2012 and then Moscow from February 4, 2012 to April 8, 2012.