Full Court Corteo Astounds at the Microsoft Theater

Photo credit:  MajaPrgomet

I honestly believe that Cirque du Soleil’s official motto is “gravity is for sissies” – or, if it isn’t, it really should be. This psychedelic circus, which had been wowing audiences for almost 40 years, has returned to Los Angeles with Corteo, a show that premiered in 2005. The barebones plot is that Mauro, the so-called Dreamer Clown, imagines his funeral procession to be a phantasmagorical parade inhabited by uninhibited free spirits and angels who form his cortege (or eponymous Corteo) as they run wild, celebrating joie de vivre.

This sketchy storyline is the skeleton that this would-be extravaganza hangs its flesh on. It is really mainly just an excuse for Cirque’s freewheeling aesthetic acrobats to be able to do their rather eye-popping thing. In essence, this consists largely of trapeze artists and tightrope walkers performing as if they are high on Purple Ousley. There is a lot of hanging from chandeliers, flinging from beds, twirling in hoops that would boggle the mind of hula hoopers, tossing of objects about, aerial ballet, balancing acts on ladders by ladder day saints and the best pole dancing I’ve seen since the parties at Dave Levine’s West Hollywood mansion about 20 years ago. Winged, angelic athletes are suspended from the Microsoft Theater’s ceiling and fly across the stage, while disembodied footgear scampers across the stage.

A highlight is when a giggly, squealing little person floats over the heads of members of the audience (which was at near capacity on opening night). How she does so this plot spoiler adverse reviewer won’t reveal; if you want to find out, you’ll just have to see for yourself, Dear Reader.

It’s all very colorful and enhanced by an eight-piece band, which is divided up and strategically located at four stations on and near the stage. They play very lively music that accompanies all of the nonstop onstage action, which as directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca ranges from the balletic to the frenetic, the graceful to the jaw-dropping. Cirque du Soleil newbies are likely to be astonished, whereas veterans (this is about my sixth Cirque since 2000) have probably seen it all before, albeit in different configurations.

My favorite Cirque so far has been The Beatles Love at the Mirage in Las Vegas. In addition to renditions of the Fab Four’s peerless sounds, the production really told a story. For instance, I still remember a point I’d never thought of before: The Beatles became famously anti-war during the Vietnam era, in particular John Lennon, who gave the movement its anthem, “Give Peace a Chance.” What Cirque stressed in The Beatles Love is John, Paul, George and Ringo were all born during World War II, which impacted on their future pacifist stances, such as Lennon’s returning of the MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) he was awarded in 1965 four years later in part due to Britain’s support of the U.S. in Vietnam.

Corteo lacks such a compelling cohesive theme and story that ties everything together organically – choreography, music, athletic prowess, scintillating sets, kooky costumes. Perhaps they should go back to the proverbial drawing board and conjure up a completely different show – hey, here’s an idea: The nimble troupe of gymnasts gives the Kama Sutra the Cirque du Soleil treatment (for adults-only audiences, but of course). In any case, Corteo is often eye-popping, death-defying good fun, acrobatics writ large, performed by a large cast of jaunty, top-notch, agile athletes who, while accompanied by live music, laugh in the grim reaper’s face. And you don’t have to be an athlete, clown or angel to enjoy this athletic angelic clown show.

Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo is at the Microsoft Theater, 777 Chick Hearn Ct., Los Angeles, CA 90015, until April 30. For tickets see: