In its Milwaukee debut at the Bradley Center, Cirque du Soleil put its music catalog center stage. Any Cirque fan knows that the modern circus -- based out of Montreal -- is known for its acrobatics, but “Delirium” uses visuals, dance and singing to get its story across.
The main character, a man floating above the stage harnessed to a large balloon, happens to be in a state of delirium. One singer tells him this is his dream and he later says he’s glad this is a dream because it’s weird. The character may think “Delirium” is weird, but the Cirque has once again created a beautiful, stunning and awe-inspiring show.
“Delirium” adds many firsts in the Cirque’s kingdom, besides the focus on the music. This is the first arena show the company has put on -- every other touring show has the trademark blue and yellow Big Top erected. “Delirium’s” stage takes up not only the length of the Bradley Center’s basketball court, but actually goes all the way into the seating area. The stage bisects the audience, one on either side of the stage looking at one another much like the Cirque’s other touring show “Corteo.”
But this also leads to one qualm a viewer may have. While there are only a few sections seating audience members, the arena gives off an immense vibe. The intimacy the Cirque has under the Big Top gets lost.
Out of a catalog of well over 500 songs, 21 were chosen to act as the anchors to “Delirium.” The music was remixed and words added to songs that were primarily instrumental. The one song that will be absolutely familiar is the title song to another Cirque show, “Alegria," which acts as the finale. Six singers become focal points throughout the performance. All have gorgeous voices and not one seemed to falter, or even get close to being off-key, during the almost two hour show. Although, in between a few songs, transitions could have been better.
The musicians, rather than being hidden in the wings, move throughout. The percussionists come onstage in full-force with the drums ever beating. One prop, a half of a planet, has drums built into it. Dancers and musicians pound away at the planet during one of the opening songs. Another act has dancers and musicians playing out a sort of war a la “Lord of the Dance” or “West Side Story.”
The music also gives way to the dance style. Its tribal beats are the perfect backdrop for the 18 dancers to move to. Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance?” contemporary choreographer Mia Michaels was an intricate part in the dances. The performers used every inch of their body to show that they could move; that the music moved them. The only other Cirque show that put an emphasis on dance is “La Nouba” based in Disney World. But those dances can’t compare to “Delirium’s” which go from tango to African tribal dancing to hip-hop with a side of crumping.
“Delirium” is a feast for the eyes, but the Cirque tends to over serve. Viewers can be overwhelmed by the amount of things occurring on stage. Besides onstage performers, screens and projectors are leaned upon heavily. There are two pairs of IMAX style screens on either side of the stage, four rectangular screens that drop down from the rigging, two moving screens running the length of either side of the stage and there are even projections on the main character’s balloon.
However, the projected visuals take away from the live action at times, like when the screens are closed to box in the stage and the projections are brighter than the lights on the performers.
There are still hints of past shows without a doubt. A hand strap act has two look-alikes flying above everyone much like the twins from “Varekai,” another touring show. At Cirque shows, a contortionist is always a must so is an act that involves something like juggling -- this time it’s an amazing hula hoop artist.
Although “Delirium” diverts from traditional Cirque shows, there’s always grace and beauty on that stage.
A nice touch to the Cirque show was an opening act, another first for the circus. Canadian recording artist Nitza started the show off with music flavored with a Middle Eastern feel. Her accompanying band was actually comprised of musicians that would later be performing in "Delirium." With each song, a new musician would pop onto the stage until there were at least seven instruments being played at once. In her relatively short set, Nitza showed she had powerful pipes and music that would be worth a trip to the record store for.
Originally from Des Plaines, Ill., Heather moved to Milwaukee to earn a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University. With a tongue-twisting last name like Leszczewicz, it's best to go into a career where people don't need to say your name often.
However, she's still sticking to some of her Illinoisan ways (she won't reform when it comes to things like pop, water fountain or ATM), though she's grown to enjoy her time in the Brew City.
Although her journalism career is still budding, Heather has had the chance for some once-in-a-lifetime interviews with celebrities like actor Vince Vaughn and actress Charlize Theron, director Cameron Crowe and singers Ben Kweller and Isaac Hanson of '90s brother boy band Hanson.
Heather's a self-proclaimed workaholic but loves her entertainment. She's a real television and movie fanatic, book nerd, music junkie, coffee addict and pop culture aficionado.