March 24 2010 12:00 AM

Cirque spectacular provides an assortment of amazing acts



Cirque du Soleil’s most popular production, “Alegria” (“jubilation” in Spanish), references the attire, music and movement of the European Baroque era while exploring themes of power, youth and continual change.

The themes for this show are reportedly darker than other Cirque productions, but apart from a sad clown and a few distorted face masks and disproportioned bodies, there is virtually no darkness to be found. The glittery white costumes are intricately stunning in both surreal design and unlimited movement for the performers. The set is detailed enough to evoke the conceptualized period yet bare enough to accommodate the constant rigging changes for trapeze artists or bungee swingers.

If there is symbolic or social significance to any of the characters, it’s never overt enough to demand analysis or provoke questions from any discerning 5-year-old. What “Alegria” does provide is a tightly engineered spectacle of sight and sound highlighting feats of athleticism and bizarre physical specialty that may hurt your own muscles to watch.

The music and musicians are your introduction into their universe. In a train, they parade through the audience led by the pot-bellied, hunchbacked ringmaster. Once the real show begins, the striding minstrels meld into the back of the stage filling the arena with percussive pop/world beats played with jazzy virtuosity.

The rest of the show focuses on creating and maintaining a sense of awe balanced with comic transitions. Weaving between gymnasts who appear to be cut from solid wood to contortionists who give new meaning to “spine-chilling,” “Alegria” packs every physical feat it can into its two-and-a-half-hour running time.

Some of the most impressive elements include the optical and auditory illusions that manipulate the senses to animate the imagination. It would be impractical and messy to create a real tidal wave every night, but with proper backlighting, stereo sound, and white confetti, “Alegria” has virtually made the impossible possible.

And so it is with almost all of the individual performances, as a heightened reality slowly becomes normal — but it’s something you have to see to believe.

Cirque du Soleil: ’Alegria’

p.m. Wednesday, March 31, Thursday, April 1, Friday, April 2 and
Saturday, April 3; 3:30 p.m. April 2 and April 3; 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday,
April 4 Breslin Center, Michigan State University $35-$95 (517) 432-5000