Cirque du Soleil Spectacular Acrobatic Theater.
KA, which translates to fire in Japanese and signifies spiritual duality in Egyptian mythology, is the story of twins, a boy and a girl, who as youngsters are kidnapped and separated from each other and their family. The show engages a series of epic challenges that these young royals must endure in order to reunite.
A dark, dazzling gothic tone is established the moment one enters the sprawling 1951 seat theater. Smoke accompanied by blasts of fire light up the stage while nimble Ninjas dart and swing from multi-tiered catwalks over and around the audience. These characters are primal in their ominous quest. The show begins when an old Asian man with a long, thin red beard makes his entrance. The Ninjas are his warriors and their dark message has already been planted in the viewer’s mind.
The Slave Cage.
Breaking new theatrical ground there is no stage as we know it. Instead, there are numerous platforms, sets and incredible technology that enable performers to use vertical as well as horizontal space. A platform carrying the royal family and court seems to float forward from the back of the stage. The evil warriors appear, separating the twins from each other and their parents. Sets transform from a stage to a ship caught in a storm. Utilizing the abyss on either side of the stage, characters are tossed overboard and appear to be swallowed up by the roiling ocean water.
Creator and director Robert Lepage describes the KA experience by saying, “People will have the impression they’re within some kind of cinematic event — but actually everything is interactive, everything’s happening at the moment.”
The magnificent costumes designed by Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt, and the props, especially the spears and bows and arrows, designed by Patricia Ruel, celebrate aesthetic and colorful aspects of Asian culture. Perhaps the most extraordinary innovation is the technology that allows the entire stage to transform into the depths of the ocean, a battlefield or a mountain of ice.
Interactive projections designer Holger Forterer is using technology along with live performers to create a new art form. The Cirque press material describes these realistic images, explaining: “The video projections in KA are an intricate mix of computer-generated effects and human input that turn performance space into a cinema screen.” Choreographer Jacques Heim creates a series of acrobatically orchestrated jousts and combative practices that go beyond dance. Throughout the show he has designed fluid dance sequences.
Guy Caron, credited as Director of Creation brings decades of theatrical and Cirque experience into play. According to Caron, “The script was the element that dictated the way the theatre is built, and it determined how the sets would be used. That’s totally new for Cirque du Soleil.”
Possibly the Bellagio’s “O” theater, with its multi-leveled swimming pool to dry stage dictated the sequences. The concept for the theater came first, the show second. With KA the script came first. Caron and Robert Lepage take us on a journey that incorporates the real and the surreal.
After fighting and surviving the elements the royal princess and her caretakers find themselves on a beach where Michael Curry’s amazing sea creatures emerge. Backstage, the master designer, renowned for the Lion King, explained, “We’re trying to find a familiar world that is fantastic and different at the same time.”
“The crabs are one of my favorites. This is a suit that’s worn by a very pliable performer who works in a backbend. The crabs are buried in sand for a long time, breathing through a breathing device and then they’re thrust up through the sand in a backbend — so the compromise position is very dynamic. The first thing you see is this very funny eyeball, which is pure puppetry. There’s a lot of engineering in a piece like this.”
The Court Jester.
Curry went on to explain how he engineers the costumes to be user friendly. “All my work, most of the sculpture you see, is primarily carbon fiber, a very lightweight composite material and very scientifically considered orthopedic foams, and lightweight foams. Those of you who know my work on the Lion King know the scale of the creatures and the lightness that they need to have to maintain the dance-like quality. You have to be very concerned with weight so we look to the orthopedic sports industry. We have on staff engineers for the metals, and the lightweight things — and I’m very proud that I can extend the human performer without just binding them up in robot suits.”
Mark Fisher’s theater and set designs support the epic quality of the story while breaking new imaginative ground. The Creator’s Notebook says, “Lepage and Fisher wanted an environment in which every entrance and exit would be a challenge. Their solution was to create a “void”.
The world’s most expensive production – KA.
And all the while, the epic score by Rene Dupere is amplifying your emotions. With speakers in each seat, the experience becomes far more riveting and personal. The soundtrack is state-of-the-art. The music and voices are a combination of prerecorded and live musicians and singers that must be blended and in sync at every performance. Four people orchestrate and coordinate the music during the show. It is an ingenious way of combining the largesse of a full orchestra with a 42 voice choir and eight live musicians. A special synthesizer, called a Symphonia, was originally developed for Broadway, can be sequenced to accommodate timing differences in the show. Rene Dupere explained that sometimes it takes the boat caught in the storm 2½ minutes to be turned around and sometimes it takes 3 minutes. Being connected to live musicians as well as the score on the Symphonia allows for smooth cross fades.
The Archer’s Daughter.
The twins journey takes them to a netherworld where they find the Wheel of Death. The Alegria Brothers, Francisco and Sabu, have been doing this death defying act for twenty years. It’s definitely edge-of-your-seat watching as the wheels turn, and without a net — these Mexican master acrobats run on top of them, darting inside just in time. They defy gravity with intuitive, balletic moves and seemingly no net to catch them if they slip.
What KA’s storyline lacks in terms of clarity — there was some confusion amongst theatergoers — it makes up for in the performances and the spectacular visual effects. The ending is happy, leaving the audience uplifted.
Guy Laliberte, the founder and CEO of Cirque du Soleil, has found the perfect marriage of talent, imagination, and financial success with the MGM-Mirage. The Montreal – based Cirque draws from its Canadian talent pool while maintaining a home base there. In KA there are 75 performers, eight musicians, and 158 technicians that are responsible for supplying a seamless 1½ hour show ten times each week.
KA is exquisite theater.
Would I see it again? Yes, absolutely. The performers, as in all four Las Vegas Cirque shows – Mystere, “O”, Zumanity, and now KA — have been selected from all over the world. They exude a blend of talent and spirit that only the Cirque du Soleil has been able to capture. If you enjoy theater and you want to be dazzled, see KA.
Once again the MGM Grand and the Cirque du Soleil threw one of the most memorable, delicious parties of the year. After KA guests were directed to MGM’s Grand Garden Arena where bars and tasting booths had been set up around the perimeter. The invitation stated that the party would be going on until noon the following day.
There was Kobe beef from Craftsteak, sushi from Shibuya, and Diego’s was giving guests a box of Mexican wedding cookies and chocolates laced with infinitesimal bits of chili. Many of the best restaurants from the MGM-Mirage properties — Olives. Emeril’s, Jean Philippe Patisserie, Sensi, Fiamma, Wolfgang Puck, and Pearl — 21 in all – were serving ’til the wee hours. On the second floor Studio 54, Tabu, Theatro and Zuri were serving a full bar.
While standing over a round table nibbling sushi, my friend, Diodoro Mendoza and I met Carrie Friedman from Sony Entertainment. She had flown in from Los Angeles for the premiere. “How did you like the show? I asked.
“It’s unbelievable,” she enthused. “I’ve never seen anything like it. The set felt like a character in the show.”
She and her friend went on about the incredible sound system. The buzz was definitely happening. Lots of French could be overheard from the multitude of Canadians, many from Montreal, who were enjoying the gala. There was a main stage with hot musicians and a dance floor that filled up with people caught up in the energy of the event. There was another stage with Cirque performers dancing, doing acrobatics, and bumping up against hula hoops that lit up in the dark.
The evening attracted a few celebrities, including Cindy Crawford, Pamela Anderson, Neil Patrick Harris, and Wayne Gretzky. But it wasn’t about Hollywood stars as much as it was about celebrating the accomplishments of the brilliant Cirque du Soleil family.
— Feature by Linda Lane, Las Vegas Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent.