Cirque du Soleil returns with an exuberant revival of its hit Kooza

The Cirque works best when the Cirque does what it knows best: stunning feats on stage that are all about getting the crowd on their feet.

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The revival of the Cirque du Soleil’s Kooza is just what the doctor ordered.

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The show marks the world-renowned Montreal circus’s return to the big top in Montreal for the first time since the pandemic shut down all Cirque shows around the world. The Cirque bosses made a wise decision to reintroduce the brand ici with a reboot of this super exciting show that first wowed audiences here in 2007.

Kooza is pure Cirque. It doesn’t bother with any of the goofy hippie-dippie storylines that pulled down so many shows after Kooza. It doesn’t try to reinvent the Cirque with BMX bikes or action thrills and spills or Cirque-on-ice silliness. It goes back to the essence of the Cirque du Soleil, back to the magic that helped this troupe of street performers win over the world back in the 1980s and 1990s.

Kooza is all about breathtaking performances from acrobats, contortionists, high-wire artists, and an incredible variety of circus artists from around the world. There is nothing even approximating a dull moment and this fast-paced, eye-catching show had the opening-night crowd on their feet Wednesday under the Cirque Big Top in the Old Port.

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The show began with the sending in of the clowns and these clowns were funnier than ever, playing up the Buster Keaton-like comedy that was an early Cirque trademark. More than a few folks in the front row ended up covered in popcorn.

The live band was front and centre, blasting soulful grooves as the performers did their stuff. A six-piece band and two singers provided the soundtrack from a raised platform at the back of the stage.

Things got rolling in the first half with the three Mongolian contortionists, but the first early highlight was American straps specialist Haley Rose Vileria, who wowed the crowd, at one point hanging by the back of her neck. Just before the intermission, the show hit another big moment with the high-wire act in which the performers sword-fenced, then rode their bicycles on the wire because … well that’s just the way Cirque du Soleil performers roll.

The first real show-stopper came in the second half with the Wheel of Death. A pair of performers did incredible things as two giant spheres rolled around the stage, powered into overdrive by surging hard-rock music. Viktor Levoshuk from Russia had everyone on the edge of their seats as he piled one chair on top of another, then pulled off amazing acrobatics balanced on top of what looked like a mighty fragile collection of chairs.

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Did I mention the dude on stilts who was fired off the teeterboard and somehow ended up still standing? Yeah, it was that kind of night.

It was fun and inspiring. The Cirque works best when the Cirque does what it knows best: stunning feats on stage that are all about getting the crowd on their feet.

Kooza doesn’t over-think it. It’s all about the joy and excitement of amazing performers doing amazing things. It reminded many of us why we fell in love with the Cirque du Soleil in the first place. Our circus was nearly destroyed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s risen from the ashes and if opening night is any indication, people are ready for this kind of fun under the big top.

bkelly@postmedia.com

twitter.com/brendanshowbiz

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