By Delia Cruz Kelly
Cirque Éloize’s spectacular 80 minute, non-stop musical acrobatic adventure “Saloon” came to the Irvine Barclay Theatre on February 8th and 9th, this was a show more jam-packed with tricks than its description is with adjectives. A Wild, Wild West themed performance might not be what’s expected of a French-Canadian circus troupe, but anything is possible when you enter the doors into the mythical, magical world of “Saloon”.
The “Saloon” stage became a hub of colorful, enigmatic characters whose stories are set to high energy, infectious folk music provided by Ben Nesrallah (The Original), Trevor Pool (The Authentic) and Sophia Beaudet (The True). The trio, namely “The Vultures”, play classics from Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” to Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” and, to the crowd’s roaring delight, even featured the fast-paced “Cotton-Eyed Joe”. The musical elements were only a part of the show’s ambiance. Creative special effects paired with perfectly synced choreography around a 3-story wooden scaffolding decorated with signs and, glass bottles typical of a saloon fully immersed the audience into the realm of the West.
The audience is introduced to a wide variety of characters who, without speaking, exude the personality they owe to their titles. There’s The Owner (Jules Trupin), The Artist (Justine Methe Crozat), The Lover (Alastair Davies), The Player (Jerome Hugo), The Sheriff (Jeremy Saint-Jean Picardo), The Stranger (Felix Pouliot), The Kid (Shena Tschofen), and of course The Cowboy (Johan Prytz).
The environment of the saloon revolves mostly around The Artist, a beautiful young woman who all the men pine after and attempt to impress with their high flying falls, 6-pin juggling, and playful balancing acts. So when newcomer The Lover rolls into town and locks eyes with the leading lady, everything changes. Their relationship breeds jealousy among the rest of the saloon regulars whose antics drive the rest of the show. There’s even a bar fight so crazy that it comes into the audience, with The Sheriff crawling over rows, and up and down the aisles while on stage, every actor is doing something different, but the chaos is somehow insanely organized. The show is riddled with comedic effects as even in this dramatic scene, the banjo playing is coming from Trevor Pool swinging senselessly in the chandelier above all the action.
After the bar fight, The Lover and The Artist are forced to leave and live run and their exit gives the stage over to solo acts of incredible acrobatic prowess. The Kid’s cyr wheel act to “Crazy” had the audience dizzy in awe while The Cowboy’s high flying aerial rope routine dropped jaws with his gravity-defying flips. When The Lover and The Artist return towards the end of the show, the stage is set for the big finale. A high octave violin battle entertains the crowd while safety mats and a large teeterboard are brought in, promising a risky climax. It’s a dramatic face-off between The Lover and The Owner as they twist and flip one after the other on the teeterboard. Then, just as The Owner takes a fall off his side of the board, The Lover steps over to him, gun drawn (the “gun” is two fingers and his thumb), ready to fire but The Artist steps in to put an end to the fighting. The infamous hymn “Will the Circle be Unbroken” begins to play, lowering guns and bringing the calming grace of peace onto the stage so as to end with a heartfelt gathering of all the characters.
Cirque Eloize’s “Saloon” has everything you want in entertainment: drama, danger, romance, comedy, music and most importantly, fun. This high flying, toe-tapping show was a circus like no other.