by Eugene Paul
Cirque du Soleil, the enchanting sidewalks of Quebec entertainers
now grown into enchanting most of the globe with a staff of 4200 magicians, has
launched a broadside at Broadway, regrettably shooting itself in the foot, not
enough to kill it but hobbling it at what it does best: thrilling us.
The thrills are still there, superb, dazzling, deliciously
chilling in their daring and artistry but the attempt at a dramatic story is a
klunker no matter how gorgeously dressed and cleverly staged. Then again, when
you get right down to it, peacock tastes like chicken. Or turkey.
Turkey, Paramour is not. There’s too much good, even
extraordinary, in the show, almost all of it their specialties that have made
them the greatest circus of humans in the world. Their acrobats, their
tumblers, their aerialists, their choreographers weaving unique, wondrous
specialties culled from the finest of physical artists, from hundreds of
countries. And they all work together! Perhaps we ought to put them in charge
of the world.
Ruby Lewis, Jerome Kushnier, Ryan Vona photos by Joan
For Broadway, however, the creative tem headed by Jean –Francois
Bouchard have chosen a love triangle on which to hang their honors. It is a
venerable story in a nostalgic mold, pulp fiction of the early decades in
Hollywood, a sort of flexible, never-never land running from the likes of
Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin to Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson and
Marilyn Monroe. Movie producer, director, tyrant A.J (Jerome Kushnier) falls
for ingénue singer, dancer nobody Indigo(Ruby Lewis) who loves composer,
singer, Joey (Ryan Vona). Aiding and abetting are Robbie (very good Bret
Shuford), Gina (very good Sarah Meahl), Lila (Kat Cunning) and fifty-three
others. They are meant to blend with and include some of the most
extraordinary Cirque du Soleil acts. They don’t. They are completely upstaged
by their wondrous circus acts.
Ryan Vona and cast
A.J. is determined to make Indigo a star. Twenty-nine costume
changes later (thank you costume designer Philippe Guillotel and nimble staff))
A.J. succeeds. Whereupon he intends to marry her, manage her, own her. But she
and Joey are in love, alas. Hoorah? Endless eye popping sets (thank you Jean
Rabasse) from superb Art Deco to shlock Western and shlock Egyptian movie
stages, pageantry, hoedowns, pomp to hee haw (thank you conceiver/director
Joey and Indigo attempt to elope, fleeing over roof tops (superb
trampoline acrobats in pursuit wearing comedy gangster outfits and colors)
galumphing to an awkward ending.
How to resolve this mismatch of mismatches? It would be sinful
not to mention Pierre Masse’s rock solid rigging designer’s contribution to the
breathtaking aerialists, the Atherton Twins, Kevin and Andrew, who fly out over
the huge Lyric theatre, patrons inches from them screaming their joy, most of
all the extraordinary aerialists enacting the A.J.-Joey-Indigo triangle over
their heads in more ways than one. And many other small and large circus
wonders, all miraculously performed, even falling off the stage to gasps. Bob
and Bill’s music could be more memorable but it’s serviceable.
Somehow you know that the Cirque du Soleil team will solve that
Broadway misstep handsomely. Certainly, a cheering, frenetic audience crowed
their appreciation regardless of the fact that the circus fantasy and the Hollywood
fantasy compete on a Broadwy stage. May the magic of a company that works
together show the way.
Paramour. At the Lyric Theatre, 213 West 42nd Street
near Broadway. Tickets: $55-$343. 2hrs, 15 min. 212-556-4750. Open run.