Acrobats, gymnasts, dancers, a cyclist, a juggler and jester, and hapless subjects pulled from the audience. Around them, a kaleidoscope stage, and behind them, a live band. At “Saltimbanco,” I didn’t understand a word anyone said (save “Panasonic” and “Delta Airlines,” the show’s sponsors), but of course I didn’t have to. The smiles on my kids’ faces proved that the natural languages of movement, music, and color said it all.
I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew Cirque Du Soleil was world famous, with big, flashy shows in Vegas, but always assumed they were something like a cross between ballet and an Enya concert — beautiful, but boring. And to be sure, “Saltimbanco” has some sweeping, lyrical segments that left my 4-year-old restless. But ultimately it was a wide-ranging show of diverse talents and feats that won everyone over by the middle of the second, and stronger, act.
The show opened with the jester and a troupe of clowns, whose antics dismayed the omnipresent ringmaster but delighted the crowd. As they preyed upon the audience, and the kids in the arena squealed with delight, I was afraid these opening moments of comedy and slapstick would be the high point. Fortunately, “Saltimbanco” mixes the jester and his friends throughout the show, breaking up the manic and majestic moments with laughs.
The acrobatics were breathtaking. This is Cirque Du Soleil, after all. Leaping from pole to pole, spinning and swinging from the cavernous arena ceiling, my daughter shrieked as they made death defying leaps. At any given moment, there were a dozen things happening at once, and seemingly every performer on stage was absorbed in his or her own show. The most exciting moments were the most disappointing in that you knew you were missing something any time you fixed your gaze.
Indeed, I dare say the best parts of “Saltimbanco” is when soloists or small troupes commanded the floor. A juggler with a swirl of eight ping pong balls, a man doing unbelievable stunts on a fixed-gear bike, a couple alternating between taiko-esque drums (which only underwhelmed because we’ve got real taiko) and spinning, clacking bolas. In the second act, two immaculately muscled men cycle slowly through impossible feats of strength and balance that left many women (and probably a few men) in the audience fanning themselves in awe.
And the medley of songs, performed by a band and accompanied by some remarkably talented vocalists, very rarely subsided into generic background music. One opera piece, “Il Sogno di Volare,” was moving enough to inspire my wife to look it up online.
“Saltimbanco” exceeded every expectation, and my appreciation only grew deeper after I finally looked into the traveling show’s history online. Wikipedia’s “Saltimbanco” entry notes that it’s Cirque Du Soleil’s oldest, signature show, touring the world since 1992. It’s in the middle of a three-year “North American” tour (focusing on smaller arenas and shorter stays)… and Hawaii is fortunate it’s making a stop in the islands.
Don’t take my word for it. Here’s my family’s reviews:
- My wife Jennifer’s Twitter review: “Saltimbanco” was amazing. Loved trapeze and juggler best. Well worth the money. I highly recommend.
- My 10-year-old daughter Katie can’t stop talking about the moments throughout the show when the jester enlisted members of the audience.
- My 6-year-old son Zac laughed hardest at the jester and ringmaster… especially the one fart joke.
- My 4-year-old son Alex loved the man on the bicycle (a segment that only appears in some “Saltimbanco” shows). Hope he doesn’t try that stuff at home.
“Saltimbanco” is in Honolulu only through November 16. Don’t miss it.