CORTEO by Cirque du Soleil at the T-Mobile Center

If by any chance you’re still looking for something fun to do with your visitors this holiday weekend, I highly recommend Cirque du Soleil’s amazing ‘Corteo’ currently playing at T-Mobile Center. It’s top-notch family entertainment; unlike almost anything you’ve ever seen. It will awaken your childhood dream of “running to join the circus”.

Corteo is a massive undertaking by Montreal’s Cirque du Soleil. It took an incredible load of twenty-five tractor-trailers full of costumes, sets, makeup and all kinds of services for this army of artists and staff to appear in our city for four days. The touring cast is 108 people. Half or these are performers from twenty-eight countries around the world. Corteo has been touring the world since 2005. And then they hire forty more people from the community to be part of their Kansas City family.

Corteo is a deceptively simple idea, beautifully executed by the mind of famed Swiss clown and theater director Daniele Finzi Pasco. An old circus clown of European tradition, Mauro, lived a good life. As he passes from this life to the next, the circus people he has shared experiences with pass and perform before him for one last time. Mauro is accompanied throughout by a host of angels flying around the stage. “Corteo” is Italian for procession, the parade associated with a funeral.

When I first heard the concept, I admit I thought it might be a downside. I was wrong. Corteo is a sweet, beautiful, thoughtful, funny and wildly athletic celebration of Mauro’s life. If you’ve ever wondered what happens to all those Olympic-level gymnasts after the Games close, I suspect you’ll find plenty of them on tour with one of Cirque du Soleil’s seven touring productions.

I had the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour earlier today. The scale and complexity of this operation defy imagination. Like any traditional circus at the time, the first thing encountered was the kitchen where food was prepared for the crew and performers. It might sound a bit plebeian, but anyone who’s spent time around the Ringling Brothers or Circus Vargas knows that the cook’s tent is the beating heart of the circus family. The tradition continues with Corteo.

These people are athletes who do extreme performances. Corteo travels with in-house medical staff, massage therapists, costume repairers, and even a cobbler. They are actors, comedians, acrobats, jugglers, musicians and dancers. There is even a giant person and two little married people, Valentina and Gregory.

A favorite scene, near the closer first act, is the little person Valentina hanging almost weightless from a bundle of huge helium-filled balloons. She is released to float above the audience and land randomly. Spectators are encouraged to grab Valentina and propel her through the air and towards the stage. Surely you remember trying to keep a helium balloon suspended in the air forever when you were a little kid. The audience likes to become a small part of the performance.

Act II is more filled with trapeze artists and vaulters, as well as a climactic, spectacular, multi-gymnast high bar routine, as the high bars are arranged in a square and one to the right and one to the left. All the bars are occupied at the same time because the flyers try not to cross paths. The circus ends with a final procession as Mauro rides into heaven on a flying bicycle twenty feet high on the stage floor accompanied by his angels.

The poor description shared above does not give Corteo the justice it deserves. If you go, I promise you will be surprised, delighted and fully entertained. You will be impressed by the intricacy, attention to detail and the smoothness with which everything is presented.

Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo continues at T-Mobile Center through Sunday, May 28.

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