'CORTEO' CELEBRATES LIFE IN THE CIRCUS
The high-flyers, acrobats, comedians and clowns — or, in this case, THE clown — of Cirque du Soleil return to Portland with their latest show, "Corteo," March 14-17.
It's an arena show at the Moda Center, rather than under the big top, but it promises to provide wonder and delight to fans of the French-Canadian circus, which has made numerous stops in Portland.
"Corteo" means "cortege" in Italian, and it's a joyous procession and festive parade imagined by a clown, and takes place in a mysterious place between heaven and Earth.
The clown pictures his own funeral taking place in a carnival atmosphere, watched over by quietly caring angels. Juxtaposing the large with the small, the ridiculous with the tragic and the magic of perfection with the charm of imperfection, the show highlights the strength and fragility of the clown, as well as his wisdom and kindness, to illustrate the portion of humanity that is within each of us.
Mauro the Dreamer Clown is the central character of the story, the one who is being honored by the fantastic funeral ... but could it all be a dream?
Other characters include Mr. Loyal the Whistler, The White Clown, The Clowness and The Giant Clown.
The music is lyrical and playful. This cast is an international one, representing 16 nationalities, with French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and other languages used.
"Corteo" first premiered in Montreal, Quebec, in 2005, and has visited more than 60 cities in 19 different countries as a big top show before transforming into an arena show in 2016. In the transition, new acts have been added with a small adaptation to the original story line.
Acrobat Fredric Umali was part of the original "Corteo," before moving on to other shows and then returning for the latest version.
"For entertainment value, the show has changed very little," he says. "There are a few new acts. Keeping the spirit alive, they've done a fantastic job, adding some things that complement the vision of the creators. You'll get a very good version of the show."
So, where does it rank on the danger index? High, Umali adds.
Umali performs in the "Tournik" portion of the show, and works on a gymnastics high bar, or high bars. There are six of them, four of them in a shape of a square and two on the perimeter. Yes, he flies back and forth on them.
"In terms of the danger factor of gymnastics to what I do now — in gymnastics, you have single entities, you're on an apparatus as a single person," he says. "With this show, we have 11 guys in the act. At any one given time there can be two, four or up to six guys on the bars swinging together. There's a big difference in risk factor, and we're also doing high-level acrobatics.
"The aerial work is also quite dangerous, of being at extreme heights. In terms of a consistent basis, this is the most dangerous" Cirque show he has worked on.
The show is mostly about the clown and dealing with heaven and Earth.
"The main character Mauro, it's kind of his vision of dream state," Umali says. "He's on his death bed and reflecting on people who have come through in his life, the influence he had, the parties he's been to, and his dream state is, like, surreal.
"Cirque can be fantastic in their images for audiences. It's a living art form. We all support him in his role. It's quite interesting the dynamics of acrobats and his acting skills."
For his part, Umali, 39, looks forward to performing in Portland. He'd like to possibly live here or someplace permanently, rather than the nomadic life of a circus performer.
"The longest period I've ever lived in a place was three years in Las Vegas," he says. "This lifestyle, you get quite accustomed to it. You get quite restless when you're in one place for a long time."
"Corteo" shows are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, March 14-15, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 16, and 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday, March 17, at the Moda Center. Tickets start at $49. See www.cirquedusoleil.com for info and tickets.