Experience `Delirium'

July 13, 2006|By SARAH MARSTON | SARAH MARSTON,SUN REPORTER

The circus is coming to town with a 21st century facelift. The Canadian troupe Cirque du Soleil's newest show, Delirium, blends music, acrobatics, theater and multimedia to comment on the virtual relationships fostered by the modern technology-driven world. The show hits the 1st Mariner Arena tomorrow and Saturday on its whirlwind North American tour.

"It's like a rock show mixed with dance, circus and movies," said Michel Lemieux, who is Delirium's co-creator, director, multimedia and scenic designer along with his colleague, Victor Pilon. Influences include Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Pink Floyd's multimedia concerts, Lemieux said. "We try to make the boundaries invisible between the different media. Is it reality or a dream? You have to pinch yourself."

As the first Cirque du Soleil show designed for arenas, Delirium is the largest technical undertaking in the company's touring history. A 130-foot, two-sided stage fills the arena, giving audience members a decent view from any seat. About four IMAX screens' worth of images project around the stage, screens, floors and the audience itself. Eighteen projectors reveal a collection of animated and manipulated images that complement the show's rhythmic music.

Other unique features include an 80-foot dress that suggests a volcano, crescent-shaped bridges suspended above the stage and a 15-foot "planet" drum that serves as an acrobatic platform and a massive 16-piece drum set. Eleven musicians, 18 dancers, six singers, eight acrobats and two actors combine forces to bring the elaborate stage design to life.

Delirium is also the company's first show structured mainly around music instead of acrobatics. The production combines 21 of Cirque du Soleil's most memorable songs, remixed with electronic, pop and world music undertones to create a percussion-driven sound called "urban tribal beats." Lyrics mostly in English but also in French, Spanish, Wolof and Portuguese accompany the music - another Cirque du Soleil first. Brazilian, Peruvian, Italian, funk, soul and electro jazz influences are tied into the live musical performances.

The music narrates the story of Bill, a man who is surrounded by a symbolic bubble, in a society "where televisions and computers have become ubiquitous devices that isolate us from one another," the company said.

Delirium emphasizes the need for balance between reality and imagination in an urban world where the lonely threat of solitude abounds. The show teaches us "to ground ourselves," according to Lemieux.

"We live in a more and more virtual reality world. We sit in our box apartments and watch another box, the TV. It's far from our primitive nature of gathering together," he said. "For ages people have gathered around the campfire. We've replaced that with screens, dancers and acrobats, but it's the same idea."

Cirque du Soleil, which means "Circus of the Sun," officially began in 1984 in Quebec City, Canada, although the troupe began street performing in the nearby city of Baie-Saint-Paul in the early 1980s. The company has snowballed and employs 3,000 people worldwide, including nearly 900 artists representing more than 40 nationalities and speaking 25 languages. The company has had more than 50 million spectators and has 13 productions running internationally. Delirium is Lemieux and Pilon's third collaboration with the company.

"We've been left free to do what we wanted with an incredible budget and a great team," Lemieux said. "We've really been able to go wild and realize our dream."

sarah.marston@baltsun.com

"Delirium" will run at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday at the 1st Mariner Arena, 201 W. Baltimore St. Tickets are $71.50-$102. For tickets, call 410-547-SEAT, visit ticketmaster.com or livenation.com. For more information on the show, visit cirquedusoleil.com.

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