(Varekai is currently playing at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia through Sunday, September 14. Buy tickets here.)
It’s no secret that the Roarbots love Cirque du Soleil. We’ve see eight different shows and recently had the amazing opportunity to tour the International Headquarters in Montreal. If you haven’t read our trip report from that tour, make sure you go and do that right now.
Go ahead. We’ll wait for you.
Whereas other groups try to cash in by using the word cirque in their name but end up delivering mixed results of varying quality, Cirque du Soleil is the original. They’re who those other guys are mimicking, and they consistently deliver stellar performances of the highest quality possible.
Varekai is no different.
In Romany, Varekai means “wherever.” This show pays tribute to that nomadic spirit, but sets everything within a typical Cirque du Soleil context–one that combines the traditional with the progressive and the possible with the impossible.
The show first premiered in 2002 as a traveling big top show. In other words, it was performed beneath an enormous big top, just like old-time traveling circuses. We never saw it under the big top (this was the first time we’ve seen Varekai), but the show is now traveling as an arena show. I doubt it’s lost any of its magic.
Very few Cirque du Soleil shows have a cohesive narrative that runs an entire show. Rather, the shows play on a single motif or theme the reverberates throughout the costumes, set design, music, and performances.
The story of Varekai imagines what might have happened to Icarus after he fell from the sky…and landed deep within a forest, at the summit of a volcano, and into a fantastic world filled with all manner of indescribable wonders.
Despite having now seen nine different Cirque du Soleil shows, there’s always something new to discover. Two acts in Varekai stood out for taking something we’ve seen before and…to steal a phrase…kicking it up a notch.
Take a look at these clips from Varekai. The first shows an act called The Flight of Icarus. Instead of performing with ropes or fabric, the performer uses a net, which allows for some unique movements and a truly remarkable act.
The second is called Icarian Games. Here, the human body becomes a catapult in an elaborate show of strength and skill. We’ve seen a similar act before…except the performers were balancing and kicking inanimate objects. Not people. Incredible.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the juggler. I have a soft spot for jugglers, and the performer here was simply astounding. In the battle for audience recognition, there’s always a competition between the strength/agility acts and the dexterity/skill acts.
Usually, the former win the thunderous applause. However, I find myself drawn to the latter. The juggler in Varekai manipulates bowling pins, soccer balls, hats, and ping-pong balls (from his mouth!). I can barely juggle three balls at once, so these guys win all of my admiration.
Since this is a traveling show, the set design is a bit more toned down (though still impressive) than some of the resident shows. Likewise, there were no acts with elaborate structures or machinery. These are often the highlight of a Cirque du Soleil show, and I have to admit that we did miss them.
If you haven’t gathered by now, we absolutely recommend Varekai, without reservation. If you’ve never seen Cirque du Soleil before, you’re in for a real treat. If you have seen them before, you’ll still be blown away by the quality on display here. Don’t miss it!
Like I mentioned up top, Varekai is currently playing at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia through Sunday, September 14. Buy tickets here.
After that, it moves on to Orlando, FL; Roanoke, VA; Hershey, PA; Columbia, SC; and several other cities through the end of the year. Check here for a full schedule.
(Disclosure: We were guests of Cirque du Soleil for this performance. All opinions are our own.)