Theatre Review: “Quidam” @ HP Pavilion, San Jose, 3/24/11

Cirque du Soliel is back in town, but this time with Quidam.

After last year’s successful production of Ovo, I was very excited to check out the touring production of Quidam.

I know there are some major Cirque-fans out there. They’ve seen all of their shows and even visit Las Vegas regularly to see the new Cirque shows that open. I’m a huge fan, but I wouldn’t say I was a super fan (by any means). I enjoy them for what they are, and usually walk way stunned by what the performers are doing on the stage. Stunned, every time. And Quidam was no exception.

But it’s funny — I generally write theatre reviews (and a lot of posts on GLEE), so you think Quidam would be a breath of fresh air for me, but I kept comparing it to a show that I recently saw on Broadway: Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark.

Quidam = Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark? Really?

Yes, really.

Quidam follows the story of Young Zoé. “She is bored; her parents, distant and apathetic, ignore her. Her life has lost all meaning. Seeking to fill the void of her existence, she slides into an imaginary world—the world of Quidam— where she meets characters who encourage her to free her soul.” To say there’s a story is a real stretch – it’s more of an experience. Sound familiar? Yes. Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark was mostly an experience with a really weak book (originally written by Julie Taymor).

Quidam‘s music, directed by the talented Jim Bevan (who I interviewed last week), was fantastic! I loved the French-influenced Cajun style music. But it was all in French, so I couldn’t understand a word anyone was singing, but did I care? No. Again, just like Spider-man. I never really understood what anyone was saying in Spider-man, but somehow I still liked the music. Bono and The Edge’s (of U2 fame) songs almost felt like music on a film soundtrack, as opposed to songs in a Broadway show. Quidam’s music was a perfect soundtrack to an already creepy production.

Picture credit: Al Seib

Quidam’s effects and circus-type flying, acrobats and juggling were incredible. Most of the time, I couldn’t believe what they were doing was actually happening. They broke the bounds of physics and wowed the audience with every trick. My favorite was the beautiful balancing act between the women/man pair as they basically balanced themselves on each other with incredible flexible prowess. (See picture on the right.) The danger was real and almost papable when the performers were throwing each other across the stage and landing with centimeters to spare on each other’s shoulders and hands. At points, I gasped audibly with the rest of the audience.

Spider-man did the same thing for me. I just couldn’t believe that these actors/performers were flying around the theatre, landing in the balcony and then jumping back down over the orchestra seats and landing back on the stage. It was incredible – a spectacle, much like any Cirque du Soliel show. It was thrilling!

Overall, I enjoyed Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark in a similar way to Quidam. I enjoyed being entertained and respected the incredible talent that’s in these type of productions. The material wasn’t as strong as I would have liked, but I still enjoyed myself. I did feel that Quidam was a little long and creepy for my liking. I could have left 20 minutes earlier and been just as satisfied (if not a little more). I will say, that the audience participation acts (which I loved) went a little longer than expected because of a few non-responsive audience members that they pulled on stage. But they ended being some of the funniest parts of the show. It really lightened up the mood. Maybe Spider-man should pull people up from the audience (or maybe not)!!!

Picture credit: Al Seib

So, what’s the moral of the story?

Spider-man should try to become more like a Cirque show, because it’s obvious that Cirque is successful at what they are doing. Cirque continues to create new, imaginary worlds that are mind-blowing, much like Julie Taymor has created in Spider-man. I hope the producers steer clear of “fixing” Spider-man to become more like a Broadway musical because they need to give the people what they want: a spectacle unlike they’ve never seen.

Make Spider-man a Cirque show.

Just a note: Quidam is probably not suitable for children under 10, not for any real reason except they probably will be bored and uninterested because the material is pretty dark and creepy.

Responses on Twitter:

@PrimaryRing: “From Cirque du Soleil #Quidam (front row): Making eye contact with the clowns has nontrivial consequences.”

@mapache: “Just caught Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam. Good stuff, as always. It was in a permanent sports arena instead of a tent, which is unusual.”

@GiltCityBeth: “Congrats @Cirque beautiful Show tonight @quidam!”

@BaconStar: “#Quidam! Amazing show!”

@CookiesandClogs: “Just walked out of Quidam. Thoroughly disappointed…lewd, bad taste, disturbing imagery.”

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