Anyone who knows me and/or has read this site for any amount of time knows how much I love movies. (Excuse me… Films!) I love modern films, as well as older films. I love all things Hollywood and still see the place as magical. There is even more grandeur and fairydust sprinkled on the way I see the place the further back in time we go.
The ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ represents films at their pinnacle, and Paramour the new Broadway play produced by Cirque du Soleil attempts to do that. Many of you know my experience with film and live performance arts but for those that do not. I attended film school in New York City and I produce burlesque shows that contain circus, sideshow, vocal performances, etc. I love live entertainment and film. I love Broadway and I have seen numerous Cirque du Soleil performances over the years.
Paramour is not like any Cirque show I’ve ever seen. First and foremost this is a Broadway musical. It features singing, dancing, costumes, sets and a narrative plot. Other Cirque shows are often bound together by a concept and while they tell a story they don’t often use words to do so. There is definitely structure that links the pieces together but they don’t narrate a specific story for you.
The differences don’t end there. Traditionally Cirque shows take place in a big top or a special theatre designed specifically for the show. Paramour took over the Lyric Theatre in Manhattan, which formerly housed Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. Though since Spiderman was in the same space, we know the theatre has the support structure built in for high flying aerial performances and that makes a lot of sense considering that the main draw for attendees are the circus elements.
Paramour’s plot is that of an aspiring singer/actress, Indigo (Ruby Lewis), who is discovered by a director, A.J. (Jeremy Kushnier). Indigo, is given the opportunity to become a star but it means she must choose between being in movies; and her friend/song writing partner, Joey (Ryan Vona). Indigo becomes a major Hollywood star, Joey is hired to write a song for AJ’s film and AJ obsesses over every detail of his vision.
The story though is secondary because it really serves to move us from performance to performance. Cirque du Soleil knows its audience is there to watch acrobats, tumblers, jugglers, and gymnasts. Paramour also, features several sequences where the musical becomes a “live-film”. Camera men follow the performers and screens built into and around the stage show performances as if they were on film but they aren’t all prepackaged shots. In all but a few situations they shoot the moments live and add special effects, technicolor or rotoscoping into the live scene as you watch it happen. The effect is often extremely fascinating, although in some instances it feels like it goes on for too long or isn’t utilized in the best possible way.
There are moments when the combination of musical and circus really work well together like in AJ’s dream sequence or the performance of Love Triangle. The reason these elements work is that the circus performers and the main performers are on stage together and no one has to get out of each other’s way. Everyone shines in their capacities as singers, acrobats, aerialists and trapeze artists. These pieces highlight what I was hoping to get from the majority of the show which suffers from the separation of song and circus.
This is a production that based on its reputation promises spectacle. I went with someone who’d never seen Cirque du Soleil before. They were very happy to see the circus acts and less impressed with the musical numbers except for the incredible voice of Ruby Lewis. Not that the men in Paramour aren’t exceptional singers but there are a few showcase moments for the power of Ruby’s voice and she is incredible.
Should you see Paramour? I think there are some fantastic elements to this show. The spectacle of the piece is where it shines and audiences will find themselves cheering during aerial ballet and quadruple flip somersaults. It works best when the music and circus work together. That said the songs won’t live with you forever. The story is not world changing but Ruby Lewis is a standout in her Broadway premiere and I think she’ll become a Broadway star.
If you are in the Tri-State area in October, Cirque du Soleil is bringing their Steampunk themed show Kurios to Randall’s Island. I look forward to being able to attend that show and discuss it when I get to see it.
- Mr. Khon