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Since its founding in the early 1980s by two Montreal street performers, Cirque du Soleil has become one of the most successful entertainment businesses in history. Last year, it was sold to private investors for a figure estimated at close to $1.5 billion....

Feldberg: Cirque du Soleil takes aim at Broadway

Since its founding in the early 1980s by two Montreal street performers, Cirque du Soleil has become one of the most successful entertainment businesses in history. Last year, it was sold to private investors for a figure estimated at close to $1.5 billion....

Feldberg: Cirque du Soleil takes aim at Broadway

Since its founding in the early 1980s by two Montreal street performers, Cirque du Soleil has become one of the most successful entertainment businesses in history. Last year, it was sold to private investors for a figure estimated at close to $1.5 billion.

But for all its skill at maximizing the popularity of circus acts through a globetrotting series of productions, it still has a dream unfulfilled.

That is to conquer New York, to take year-round benefit of the city’s position as one of the world’s great tourist magnets. (Cirque has long had a stronghold in Las Vegas, where it has seven shows running, one of them topless.)

Although it’s a frequent visitor to New York for short stays, Cirque is now taking aim at Broadway, in pursuit of its grail of a show that will run for years, not just a couple of months.

At a cost of $25 million – or double the expense of the average lavish musical – it’s presenting “Paramour.” Currently in previews, the show opens Wednesday night (May 25) at the Lyric Theatre.

 “We have 25 different productions around the world,” said Scott Zeiger, who joined Cirque in 2014 as head of its theatrical division. “But we don’t occupy a space for an open-ended show in New York. We’re trying to crack that nut and join the Broadway landscape.”

 “Paramour” is a new kind of hybrid for Cirque, which has an established identity as a sophisticated, high-tech, visually dazzling circus, with no animals, New Age-y music and a vague story line that links world-class tumblers, balancers, jugglers and other circus acts.

 “Paramour,” said Zeiger, integrates the circus artists into a singing and dancing Broadway musical.

 “We’ve never done anything like this,” he said in a recent phone conversation. “It’s a show with a linear narrative, in English” – Cirque performances typically have few words — about a love triangle, set in the Golden Age of Hollywood.”

Nonetheless, he said, it’s still unmistakably a Cirque show.

 “We’ve worked hard [over the years] to establish who we are,” he said. “We have 38 performers, and more than half, 22, are circus artists.

 “There’s a big song-and-dance opening number, which includes the acrobats, and it’s all done with the traditional Cirque flair.”

The production concept, said Zeiger, is to use the circus performers, including a silent clown, as aspects of the storytelling. They’re employed, as an example, to accentuate the characters’ thoughts and feelings, much the way songs are used in traditional musicals.

The show hasn’t forgotten spectacle, either. It may be the first Broadway production to use drones, which, dressed up as lampshades, fly over the audience.

Cirque’s previous big attempt at establishing a theatrical presence in New York, the 2010 “Banana Shpeel,” was a disaster. Presented at the Beacon Theatre, the show, a disjointed attempt to blend circus and vaudeville, lasted a little over a month.

 “Zarkana,” a more traditional Cirque show, had runs at Radio City Music Hall in 2011 and 2012.

The lyrics of the song “New York, New York” maintain, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”

For Cirque du Soleil, the situation is reversed. It’s already made it just about everywhere. New York would be the summit, not the start.

 

Our editors found this article on this site using Google and regenerated it for our readers.

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