For nearly three decades, the Montreal-based Cirque Du Soleil have dazzled audiences around the world with their dazzling acrobatics, comedic clowns and their rocking soundtrack. With their latest venture in Baltimore this weekend, “Toruk – The First Flight”, the great circus of the sun has ventured into new territory by doing something they have never done in their entire history – tell a story.
Inspired by the James Cameron epic flick, “Avatar”, Toruk brings a new adventure set on the alien moon Pandora – home of the tall blue-skinned alien species known as the Na’vi. Narrated by a Na’vi Storyteller, our story takes place thousands of years ago before the movie’s setting. You can officially call this a prequel. Two Omaticaya boys, Ralu and Entu, were completing their rituals to become men among their tribe when a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls. The only thing that can save their world is a mythical creature known as “Toruk”. The two brave men along with with their newfound friend Tsyal will set out on an adventure to save their world.
For the fans that are expecting the tradition dazzle of previous Cirque du Soleil productions, Toruk will be a disappointment to you. While the idea of a theatrical play based on a sci-fi epic looked well on paper, it didn’t translate well on the stage. Thankfully, not all of the Toruk was bad.
The Toruk set, which encompasses the entire stage, was in constant motion due to the stunning visual projections. Through the trio’s journey across Pandora, we get to experience different landscapes of the world of Pandora. One moment, we’re on a green landscape that sprouts weird plant life from below. The next, a torrential waterfall or a volcanic lava flow is unleashed on the stage floor.
While Cirque promoted the show as “family-oriented”, there were some scenes that were too dramatic for younger audiences. For example, there was one scene where a Na’vi had to kill a wounded animal to set their spirit free. This show would be geared to more mature audiences than the entire family.
It feels like there was too much going within the show itself. If you focus on the action of the two characters, you may miss or in this case should miss the acrobatic performances or the wonderful projections that you could lose track of the very confusing underwhelming story.
In the world of entertainment, you can produce hit after hit for many years. The people at Cirque have venture out their usual tale when they worked with other pop culture brands to create acrobatic magic with The Beatles’ Love or The Michael Jackson IMMORTAL Tour to amazing results! And then, once in a blue moon, you produce a turkey. Toruk – The First Flight was that turkey for Cirque Du Soleil. You cannot blame the performers who put their heart & soul out there on stage to entertain us. The blame sole falls on Cirque for taking a dramatic risk that didn’t wow the crowd. When you do come back to Baltimore or DC, I beg you – please bring back the clowns, high wire acts, people flying through the air and the amazing soundtrack. We want to be surprised again.
FINAL GRADE: D for Dramatically Dull