Friday, April 24, 2009



Directed by David Shiner. On Randall's Island. (CLOSED)

Cirque du Soleil have worked with clown prince David Shiner before, but this time they've turned over the reins to him, and critics range from dazzled to charmed by the edgier, more chaotic spin Shiner puts on this acrobat-and-clown-packed fiesta--a departure, they say, from Cirque's usual fairy-tale whimsy. Everyone marvels at the gasp-inducing Wheel of Death, even's Martin Denton, who is otherwise unenchanted by the spectacle.

The New York Times A
(Jason Zinoman) Cirque du Soleil, the juggernaut from Montreal, consistently delivers the most stunning big-top stagecraft and talented acrobats on earth, but in recent years the whimsy has gotten to be a bit much. After so many magical landscapes filled with adorable animals and punishingly innocent children, a little burp of bad taste can be refreshing...What is special about this new production is that Mr. Shiner introduces some carefully choreographed chaos and old-fashioned sideshow spark to the rock-solid formula...Cirque du Soleil has always shown a willingness to give ambitious artists with eccentric visions (like Robert Lepage) lots of money and the space to do what they please. But allowing Mr. Shiner to run wild a bit, the global producer displays flexibility that will benefit it as Cirque apparently inches toward a greater presence in New York.

Theatermania A
(Andy Propst) Thanks to director David Shiner, this new-to-New York offering from the Canadian-based company has a big surprise in store: the piece has a decidedly American edge to it...The centerpiece acts of Kooza belong really to neither time nor place, but simply exist to thrill spectators...The show's finale is a raucous acrobatics sequence that proves to be a fittingly delightful end to this marvelously satisfying show.

Variety A-
(Sam Thielman) The breathtaking show mixes wonderful clowning routines with sleight-of-hand, dance and some astonishing aerial stunts, including a "Wheel of Death" centerpiece that defies description...The danger is what makes the show so much fun to watch. After a Tim Burton-esque number with dozens of dancing skeletons and a natty-looking Death (the high point of a particularly beautiful set of costumes by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt), the scariest and best act descended from the ceiling: the Wheel of Death, a long contraption with a cage on either end that spins in a huge circle...The second half of "Kooza" is by far the stronger...Any minor design quibbles take a back seat to the show's laudable ingenuity. Shiner's circus is always about the abilities of his performers, not the money spent on the production. As lovely as the costumes and Stephane Roy's set are, the director always keeps the energetic cast front and center.

New York Post A-
(Frank Scheck) Something of a return to roots for the hugely successful Montreal-based company, whose offerings have becoming increasingly pretentious. Created and directed by master clown David Shiner ("Fool Moon"), it thankfully stresses its talent...Thanks to Shiner, there's more clowning than usual, with several audience volunteers ("involunteers" is more like it) recruited into the action...At times, the show stoops to cheap effects: A large costumed "dog" raises its leg and wets the front row; a cannon blasts confetti you'll be pulling from your clothes for the rest of the day. But the staging is generally enthralling.

Time Out NY B+
(Adam Feldman) Conceiver-director David Shiner...keeps the clowning as elegant and pleasing, in its own way, as the exotic athletic episodes that have made this troupe's name. Kooza's humor and acrobatics are balanced as confidently as the tightrope walkers who end the first act on two levels of high wire. The most dramatic of the new routines is a thrilling bit called Wheel of Death...The overall design has a hint of Indian spice, but this is basically a mild curry, suitable for most palates. All the world, pretty much, loves Cirque du Soleil.

Backstage B+
(Tom Penketh) Written and briskly directed by David Shiner, who brings a nice balance of bawdy fun and touching emotion to the performances. A highlight includes the New Orleans–tinged skeleton dance choreographed by Clarence Ford to a vivacious score by Jean-François Côté. The magnificent array of colorful costumes, which serve the dual purpose of being both functional and eye-popping, were designed by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt. With Kooza, the Quebec-based troupe adds another success to its long line of entertaining spectacles. D+
(Martin Denton) An awkward amalgamation of good-to-spectacular acrobatic/aerialist acts and coarse, un-funny clowning. The latter element surprised me, as much for its incongruity amongst the pretense to elegance that otherwise characterizes the piece as for the fact that the production's writer/director is David Shiner...There is nothing on the bill that I hadn't seen somewhere before, which was disappointing. And with the exceptions of the Wheel of Death and Gatto the Juggler, there was nobody who wasn't visibly working very very hard on stage...At a show like this, I want to be so jealous of these people because I know I can't do what they've just done. But through most of Kooza my reaction was: why would I ever want to do what these people have just been made to do?

The New York Times A 13; Theatermania A 13; Variety A- 12; New York Post A- 12; TONY B+ 11; Backstage B+ 11; D+ 5; 77/7=11 (B+)

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