TORUK – The First Flight
Reviewed by Vanessa Cate
Cirque du Soleil
Through January 15th
There is a reason that Cirque du Soleil is a household name. Since 1984 it has grown from a relatively small circus show into a performance behemoth that features remarkable human feats of strength, flexibility, and endurance, with a production design of equal quality and scope.
Pairing the cirque show with James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic Avatar is a bold choice, but one that makes sense. The film was a smash-hit and garnered many awards and nominations. It wasn’t the story that made it such a success, but its spectacle — the design and visual effects. Cameron began work on the film in 1994, but could not complete it for more than a decade because the technology necessary to bring his vision fully to life was not yet available.
TORUK – The First Flight takes place thousands of years before the events of the film take place — before humans ever arrived on the planet of Pandora. The notably blue Na’vi —intimidatingly tall, fierce and agile warriors — live in communion with nature. When a prophecy foretells danger for the Tree of Souls, a sacred spiritual site, three young coming-of-age Na’vi must do everything they can to unite their people and save it, taking great risks and seeking the help of the beasts called Toruk for the first time.
The story is simple and easily accessible for audiences of all ages — which makes for a great family outing, as the magic and wonder are perfect for children. The show puts to fantastic use all visual elements, including puppets (Patrick Martel), kites, and even immersive tools (audiences can download an app onto their phones which interact with the show).
While the accomplishments of the ensemble (intricately choreographed by Tuan Le and Tan Loc) are jaw-dropping, it is the full and seamless transformation of the stage into the various landscapes of an alien planet that is the production’s truest marvel. Carl Fillion’s magnificent set design is flawlessly supported by exquisite multimedia work, designed by Michel Lemieux and writer/director Victor Pilon.
The Forum, 3900 W Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90305; January 12th thru January 15th. Thurs.-Fri., 7:30 p.m., Sat. 4 & 8 p.m., Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m., through January 15. http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk Running time: approximately two hours with one 20 minute intermission.
Note: This review is of a performance at the Staples Center. Remaining performances will be held at The Forum in Inglewood.