By Ian Rigg
Cirque du Soleil’s Luzia is a stupendous, astonishing, astounding, awe-inspiring, marvelous, mind-blowing, breathtaking, unbelievably brilliant phantasmagorical experience.
This thrilling, thoughtful, titanic and tender waking dream of Mexico is an unparalleled delight.
In parking lot K of the United Center, patrons enter a city of light. Stilt performers and the wafting scent of carnival delights greet guests. Beneath the big top, the house is aglow with blinking marigold flower crowns, and the sound of crickets (subtle brilliance courtesy of sound designer Jacques Boucher). The 2600 audience members enjoy mariachi music, with no idea of what dreams may come.
Then, a clown skydives from the ceiling (the hilarious and heartfelt Eric Fool Koller).
When he lands, the audience somersaults into a stirring, striking, sumptuously surreal spectacle.
A monarch mariposa (Shelli Epstein), wings stretching toward the ceiling, jubilantly sprints down a stage-length treadmill, and the kaleidoscope unfurls.
The immaculate and soaring voice of Majo Cornejo sings of things “pintado en el cielo,” and that’s just what Luzia is: a painted masterpiece across the sky.
Director and Co-Writer Daniel Finzi Pasca has concepted and conjured a masterpiece. He creates thrilling stage portraits as compelling as they are captivating. Everything comes across as effortless wonder, as if concocted before the viewer’s fluttering eyelids by an artistic subconscious architect.
Composer Simon Carpentier only enhances the dream with an equally rich soundscape, developing a simply superb score. Eugenio Caballero’s versatile and vivid set incorporates a grand disc, embodying the sun, the moon and an homage to the Aztec calendar, which is additionally adorned by Johnny Ranger’s crafty and cultural projections. Costume Designer Giovanna Puzzi Martin and Makeup Designer Maryse Gosselin tagteam to bring fantastical figures to fruition, as birds, bugs and animal-heads in baja striped attire echoing 1920s Mexico float across the stage. Martin Lebrecque is an out-of-this-world lighting designer, bringing the moods of the dreamscapes to life in vivid technicolor. Incredibly expressive displays of puppetry (ingeniously designed by Max Humphries) match the technical skill of the engineers wowing the audience and keeping the performers safe (Danny Zen).
Because at the heart of Cirque du Soleil are the performances, and Luzia is simply sublime. Each act is not only death-defyingly dynamic, but also infused with an impressionistic air and cultural tribute. Acrobatic choreographers Edesia Moreno Barata, Debra Brown, and Sylvia Gertrúdix González deftly direct some of the world’s best athletes through increasingly incredible acts. Words don’t do them justice: they must truly be seen to be believed.
And to top it all off: El pintado cielo llora. The painted sky cries. Luzia (a lovely portmanteau combo of luz for light and lluvia for rain) is the first Cirque du Soleil show to incorporate water, and the results are utterly gorgeous: Cyr wheel expert Angelica Bongiovonni and trapeze artist Enya White pirouette though a waterfall, and Benjamin Courtenay soars above the rainforest on straps, his mane flinging droplets wherever he flies. Like everything else in the production, it’s top-of-the-line design smart design, and the streams even make shapes as they fall.
Luzia is an absolute wonder. It is a majestic mosaic of Mexico. It is a tapestry of light, interwoven with rain. It is not to be missed.
Enter a realm of pure fantasy, and Luziaself in Luzia.
Cirque du Soleil presents “Luzia” through September 3 in the tent at the United Center, 1901 W Madison St, Chicago. More information and tickets are available here.