What if things had turned out differently for Icarus, the boy who flew too close to the sky with his wax and feather wings and ended up falling into the ocean? That spark of an idea is what brings “Verekai” to life as a vivid performance of song, dance, acrobatics and even comedy.
JavaGirl (9) and I watched the Baltimore premiere as part of the media last night and as much as I enjoyed the show, I especially relished watching the wonder in her eyes as she experienced it. We’ve seen many live performances together, but nothing is quite like a Cirque du Soleil show — the costumes are straight out of crazy dreams, the make-up is like none other, and the acts are amazing displays of human strength, flexibility, and beauty.
Set in a land of brightly colored, fantastical animals and a roaring volcano, “Verekai” begins by showcasing some of the marvelous creatures. What seems to delight the kids in the audience the most is how the performers interact with the manhole cover size holes throughout the stage. Performers pop up from them, drop down into them, and at times steam emits from the holes. Every shot of steam brought about peals of laughter.
Suddenly, a creature falls from the sky. It is Icarus, who instead of drowning in the sea after flying too close to the sun, falls into this magnificent forest. He is injured and his wings are removed. All seems to be lost for him, until he meets a creature known as The Betrothed. What follows is a love story as the inhabitants of the land ultimately conspire to bring these two together.
Just like the first time I saw a Cirque du Soleil show, my personal favorite was watching the aerialists, especially when they made heart-stopping, dramatic rolls with scarves, straps, or a net. A close second in “Verekai” is the acrobatics from the Russian swings to the hand-balancing on canes. Something I’ve never seen before was an act with a performer on special curved crutches — apparently this being also fell from the sky, but did not fully recover from his injuries, and he performs an acrobatic dance to show Icarus that there is life after falling.
There are more than 130 costumes in “Verekei,” all of them stunning, but my favorite is those of the Volcano Leapers. Hats are a big part of Cirque du Soleil’s costumes, but these creatures have a hat with a stone-like face on top, so when the dancers bend their heads, the hats become their faces. They are a wonderful personification of lava.
JavaGirl enjoyed it all (though noted she wanted more acrobatics in the opening scene), but I think if you pinned her down on her favorite element, it may have been the “clowns.” These clowns do not have white faces and red noses like other circus clowns, but are character actors who serve as comic relief throughout the show. JavaGirl especially enjoyed when they worked as a magician and assistant, but I think my favorite act was when the male clown, looking like a young Wayne Newton, has to chase a spotlight all over the arena during his song.
If you’ve never seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, “Verekai” is a great one to see! And if you have seen a performance, “Verekai” is likely to include the elements you love while still providing a fresh, exciting show. Either way, I recommend purchasing one of the programs ($20) to enhance your experience, especially if you have young children who might find it hard to follow the storyline. It is a deconstructed program — instead of a booklet there are a series of double-sided color photos of the show, with captions explaining what is going on, and a poster.
“Verekai” Locations and Tickets
“Verekai” is in the metro DC area in two different venues:
Royal Farms Arena
Tickets can be bought online, starting at $36 (prices go up for weekend shows). There happens to be a Living Social ad for the Fairfax performance. A quick web search for coupon codes may be worthwhile.
Disclosure: My family was given two tickets in the media section to watch the show. Writing a review was not required and all opinions are my own (or JavaGirl’s).