Gratuitous Violins rating *** out of ****
I'm not a big circus fan but I was excited about the first visit to Providence by Cirque du Soleil. I knew the Montreal-based troupe's shows were visually stunning and filled with amazing acrobatics.
Cirque usually plays bigger markets than Providence but because of the recession, they're reaching out to new locations and smaller cities with 15-year-old Alegria. The next stop on this tour is Manchester, N.H.
Alegria means "jubilation" or "joy" in Spanish and the Cirque Web site describes the show as "a joyful rendez-vous with the beauty and power of the human body."
The aerialists and trampoline artists and contortionists were incredible. Watching a pair of trapeze artists was so breathtaking I felt a touch of vertigo as they flew high above me in the Dunkin' Donuts Center. And the baggy-suited clowns were pretty funny, especially with one routine involving a paper airplane.
With the music and the costumes, Cirque does a great job making the show look fantastical - like you've stumbled upon an imaginary world with these weird-looking characters who are part Alice in Wonderland, part Moulin Rouge. It really is a visual feast and I can see why Cirque is so popular worldwide - there's no language barrier to surmount.
Where I felt let down a little bit was in the storytelling itself. Alegria was great to look at but I wasn't sure what it all meant. If there was a plot, it escaped me. Maybe if I'd understood the lyrics to the songs, that would have helped.
Now I know what you're thinking: It's a circus, there's no plot!
But according to its Web site, Alegria is about "Power and the handing down of power over time, the evolution from ancient monarchies to modern democracies, old age, youth — it is against this backdrop that the characters of Alegría play out their lives. Kings' fools, minstrels, beggars, old aristocrats and children make up its universe, along with the clowns, who alone are able to resist the passing of time and the social transformations that accompany it.
Okay, maybe it was all a little bit over my head but honestly, I didn't get any of that.
I felt like I was watching something kind of generic - incredible acrobatic feat followed by a little clowning followed by a little singing followed by another incredible acrobatic feat, with nothing that really tied them all together.
To me, it all wore kind of thin after awhile - more spectacle than substance. Although I admit the spectacle is pretty terrific.