CEDAR RAPIDS — U.S. Cellular Center cleaning crews will be busy picking up jaws off the floor between performances of Cirque du Soleil’s “Corteo,” onstage through Sunday evening.
This is the fifth time the Montreal-based showcase of circus artistry has come to Cedar Rapids, beginning with “Saltimbanco” in April 2008, and continuing with “Alegria” in March 2010, “Quidam” in June 2013 and “Dralion” in 2014.
All were spectacular, but “Corteo” easily is the best. Partly because Cedar Rapids Washington graduate Erin Cervantes, 39, who grew up in Bertram, is flying high through the show from beginning to end. And partly because this show’s storyline is the most delightful and easy to follow.
“Corteo,” Italian for a solemn procession, turns joyous in a celebration of life for the clown Mauro, who either is watching his funeral or dreaming of his funeral. He delights in seeing the various chapters of his life replayed with all the pomp and circumstance of heightened memory. In this case, his memories soar to the heights of the arena’s rafters over and over again, from flying angels and bicycles to aerial acrobatics and floating helium bubbles.
Plenty of breathtaking action happens on or near the stage floor, which sports a labyrinth pattern with a revolving outer ring. Clowns and jugglers romp across the stage, and acrobats vie for the highest heights springing from a teeter-totter, swinging through high bars or balancing on poles or ladders. All are feats of heart-stopping athleticism, fluidity and finesse.
Beginning with a funeral dirge, angels descend, the whistling ringmaster steps in, and all the various characters parade to Mauro’s bedside to pay their respects. The action whips into a frenzy until Mauro rises from his bed to meet the first of his visions: his four past loves.
Cervantes is one of these women who dance among three giant chandeliers that ascend, descend and swing high overhead. Be prepared to hold your breath for 6.5 minutes, as they cavort and contort in a beguiling frolic among the beads and bars — sometimes hanging on by just one hand or one foot. As they land, Mauro calls Cervantes by name, which is a lovely little shout-out to our hometown star.
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She returns shortly thereafter, spinning across the stage in a cyr wheel in a solo spotlight, then later, surrounded by four men also spinning in the metal hoops.
In between her scenes is one of the show’s most giddy moments, when Mauro is transported back to his childhood bedroom, where everyone is bouncing on ornate scrollwork beds, outfitted with trampoline mattresses. The artists dressed as children tumble and twirl through pillow fights, jumping from bed to bed until the White Clown marches in, scolding them to settle down and quell the noise, thus squelching their fun.
Each new scene brings an explosion of sight, sound and color, met with bursts of applause in Wednesday’s opening night performance.
Gasps reigned supreme, as well, especially when the silk aerialist not only took her daredevil plunges from great heights, but sang as she whirled along her silken path stretching from earth to sky. All the vocalists and instrumentalists created their own musical gymnastics, sliding between haunting melodies and bombastic bursts.
From the gorgeous hand-painted front curtain to the ornate costumes, dazzling lights and feats of strength and beauty, this top-flight show that moves through the ages is a show for the ages. Don’t miss this chance to take your inner child out for a dizzying spin.
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