TOTEM – Cirque du Soleil
Once again, we have Cirque du Soleil in our own backyard. Do you remember the days of trekking to Vegas to catch a show… forking out a month’s salary (ok, I exaggerate… but maybe the entire month’s entertainment allotment) for a couple of tickets? As extraordinary as that experience was and still is, the Vegas Cirque show is not a show for the masses. It’s a show for the elite. A once or twice in a lifetime proposition for most of us.
Well, things have changed a bit in the Cirque world, and I’d say it’s for the better. Not too long ago we Angelinos had the luxury of viewing one of these spectacular shows, IRIS, at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, and now we have another stunner available to us in sandy Santa Monica.
TOTEM is my first experience of seeing a Cirque du Soleil show up close. It takes place in a fabulous yellow and blue circus tent they call the “Grand Chapiteau” along the pier. It’s a much more intimate space than the more often used larger venues. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. I was quite a ways off to the side and in the second group back (aka pretty cheap seats) and had no complaints with the view. The chairs weren’t Vegas or Hollywood chairs but the lights and spectacle were, and the price is so right. Just bring a cushion/blanket if you have concerns about the chairs.
The versatile set (Carl Fillion) has everything from marsh reeds used to hide the band from view to a turtle shell-like structure with amphibious acrobatic creatures climbing and swinging about. There are incredible projections (Pedro Pires) that will lead you to believe the ocean outside the tent has found its way in. The crazy sparkly lycra bodysuit costumes (Kym Barrett) are more than dazzling. And you feel like a bit of an insider when you realize the 6-pack abs you see are actually painted on… no doubt mimicking the real ones underneath. No doubt.
The talent, artistry, and athleticism of the performers are always the winning aspect of any Cirque show, and this is no exception. The favorite acts of this particular show were the (quasi) Native American hoop dancer(s), the unicycle ladies–complete with bowl balancing and tossing, the super-duper muscular ring guys and last but not least, the Russian bar-bouncing acrobats. I know, I know…none of these acts *sound* that great, and I do them no favors by my own silly describers, but trust me, they are cool. Really cool. Their quintessential comic acts are present throughout, provoking giggles just as our eyes are about to glaze over in acrobatic mystery. These comic fellas are a fun addition.
What’s not to like? As previously mentioned (although I don’t mean to beat a dead horse) the chairs leave something to be desired. There’s also no guarantee that you will see the act you are most looking forward to. At any given night, certain acts do not appear. Rumor has it the fixed trapeze duo are amazing and the roller skate act was stunning… but I couldn’t tell you, because they didn’t perform on the night I was in attendance. And last but not least… I wasn’t a fan of the TOTEM “storyline.” I’ve never met a Cirque du Soleil show in which the storyline worked for me. I guess if you are the study-up-before-you-attend theatregoer, you may be able to connect the dots, but I never can. I simply go and enjoy being entertained without concern for the through line. It works for me, and I believe it will work for you.
Writer/Director Robert Lepage (of KA, Vegas fame) has created a good one here. Go get some of the plentiful discount tickets being offered, bring the kids, and be enchanted. Oh, there’s a disco ball guy that drops from the ceiling. Who doesn’t want to see that?
Now though March 16th
Santa Monica Pier
1550 Pacific Coat Highway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Tues-Friday 8:00, Sat 4:30 and 8:00, Sun 1:00 and 4:30
Ticket prices vary (children and senior pricing avail)
Discount tickets offered in all the usual places