Saturday, June 4, 2011

NY Times: Defiant Showman Demands His ‘Wow’

[post 148]

Guy Laliberté, co-founder and owner of Cirque du Soleil, has done well enough for himself to afford to pay $35 million to be a space tourist. Yes, you read that right; yes, out of his own pocket. Not bad for someone who started as an accordion-playing street performer!

With his latest show, Zarkana, preparing to open in New York at Radio City Music Hall, he and the Cirque are the subject of an interesting enough NY Times profile.

Because the Cirque's Banana Shpeel, an attempt at a vaudeville stage show, bombed so badly in Chicago and New York, there's been considerably more criticism of their artistry, and a lot of pressure on them to bounce back with their next show.  The article does tackle this head-on:

As Cirque has transformed from an arty alternative to traditional big-top circus into what it is today, some suggest it has become emotionally cold and risk-averse. “If Cirque is going to succeed in New York, they need to understand story — and they don’t,” said Richard Crawford, an actor currently in “War Horse” who was fired from “Banana Shpeel” last year. “They have no idea about Aristotelean plotting or character. It’s not in their heart. They come from street performers, and now they are street performance with laser beams and millions of dollars.”

The problem is that audiences have come to expect a certain scale from Cirque, and when they don’t get it, as in the case of “Shpeel,” they may be disappointed. It’s a nagging worry for Mr. Laliberté too. “Are we condemned to only doing big acrobatic shows?” he says, leaning forward with a grave look. “Creatively we have the capacity to do much more. The answer is we can explore new stuff, but we need to give the public a bone to chew on.”

You can read the whole article here.

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