Sensational “Saltimbanco”

Saltimbanco by Cirque du Soleil

UPDATE: A special $20 discount is propagating on Twitter. If you’re thinking of checking out “Saltimbanco,” be sure to use the special link and save!

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.

Mahalo to Nathan and M.J. for inviting us to check it out, and providing two complimentary tickets.

9 Responses

  1. That is a great Cirque show! Glad you guys enjoyed it!

  2. Nathan says:

    Ryan, I’d seen two Cirque shows in Las Vegas – Mystere and Zumanity – but didn’t know what to expect with a traveling show. With the exception of the venue itself, the show was just as good as what you find on the Las Vegas Strip in my opinion. Hawaii’s lucky to have this in town for another week and I hope those who have always been curious about Cirque find the time to experience it in our own back yard. Glad you and the family enjoyed the show as much as we did.

  3. Allan says:

    Ryan, all of the touring Cirque shows are on DVD.
    The kids would watch these over and over. Each one is very good. Quidam is my favorite.

  4. MJ says:

    Aloha Ryan,
    Glad you enjoyed the show, too. I’ve seen it a couple of times now and it keeps getting better. My favorite is the trapeze act. Twin girls from the Ukraine who, even though they flip and twirl from the top of the Arena without a net everyday, find Hawai’i’s winter waves “too scary.” I just can’t believe how they can catch each other with their toes!

  5. Gary says:

    He suddenly pops onto one wheel and uses his bike in ways that boggle the imagination. Wow

  6. Lani Teshima says:

    *LOVE* Cirque. We’ve seen “O,” “Love” and most recently, “Ka.” “Ka” was AWESOME — the only Cirque show with an actual plot and real chracters, it focuses on martial arts, and since hubby is a huge martial arts fan we were in for a complete treat. Love Cirque. Glad you liked it!

  7. Ami says:

    So glad you enjoyed the show! Isn’t it great how Cirque just captivates all ages?

    Lani – I love “Ka”, too – the martial arts, the swordplay and the staging is simply stunning!

  1. November 12, 2008

    […] just take my word for it that this show is worth every penny. Fellow blogger Ryan Ozawa’s wonderful review of Saltimbanco sums up the experience best. In his post he writes: The acrobatics were breathtaking. This is […]

  2. November 19, 2008

    […] not the Chicken Saltimbocca that you eat.  For great local reviews, please check out Nathan Kam or Ryan Ozawa’s blogs.  Thanks also to them both for pointing me to a $20 discount that allowed me to buy […]

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