By Leslie D. Rose
It’s music, lights, theatrics, acrobatics and costumes – it’s the highflying, colorful experience of landing ‘wherever’
Cirque du Soleil began producing “Varekai” in 2002, and since then the energetic show – part stage play, part musical, part circus – has been electrifying audiences in more than 72 cities in over 20 countries.
On March 12, the production returns to the Capital City for a five-day run that includes seven performances at the Baton Rouge River Center.
Written and directed by Dominic Champagne, “Varekai” – which means ‘wherever’ in the Romany language of the gypsies, the universal wanderers – is the story of a solitary young man let go by the sky, dropped deep into a mythical world where a volcano exists.
He is parachuted into the shadows of a magical forest filled with fantastical creatures like La Promise – The Betroved, who becomes his beautiful, guiding light. There’s a wise, old man, Le Guide – The Guide, whose mission is to inspire and bring about change. And then there’s La Vigie – The Skywatcher, he’s a mad scientist and collector of the world’s memories. The three are all paramount to the young man, Icare or Icarus, who is said to be innocent and vulnerable, as he finds himself wounded in the unknown world.
On this day at the edge of time, in this place of pure and undiluted possibility, begins an inspired incantation to a life rediscovered and to a newly found wonder in the mysteries of the world and the mind. Icarus’ desire to live and overcome his fears will drive him to new heights and an eventual rebirth.
This production pays tribute to the nomadic soul, to the spirit and art of the circus tradition and to those who quest with infinite passion along the path that leads to “Varekai.”
Like all other Cirque du Soleil productions, “Varekai” is full of charm and elements of enchantment. It features 12 acts of acrobatics, music and circus fanfare by an international cast of 50 performers and musicians from 18 different countries.
The musical score was created by Violaine Corradi, drawn from the vast repertoire of world music. She combined the sounds of Hawaiian rituals, songs of 11th-century troubadours from the south of France, traditional Armenian melodies and gospel music with contemporary arrangements to conjure up the unique musical universe of Varekai.
Performed live by a seven-piece band that includes a bandleader/keyboard player, a second keyboard player, drummer, percussionist, bassist, violinist and a wind instruments player and two singers— one male (The Patriarch) and one female (The Muse), the music is executed to adapt to what is going on on-stage and not the other way around as with many other musical productions.
This shift in routine requires the bandleader, musicians, singers and sound staff to be in constant communication via headsets and microphones during the show, making each “Varekai” experience uniquely different.