Cirque du Soleil: Quidam

Watching Cirque du Soleil's "Quidam" is like being inside a dream or a Magritte painting. It's circus for surrealists -- the ultimate funhouse experience, both fascinating and fantastic.

Watching Cirque du Soleil’s “Quidam” is like being inside a dream or a Magritte painting. It’s circus for surrealists — the ultimate funhouse experience, both fascinating and fantastic. Cirque founding director Franco Dragone describes “Quidam” as an allegory for our hopes and fears as we face the new millennium. It’s a refreshingly original alternative to the tired, sentimental holiday programming offered at this time of year.

Bravo has made Cirque du Soleil performances a holiday programming tradition for four years now. While some fans of the troupe may be taken aback by the more somber tone of “Quidam” (pronounced key-dahm), it’s full of the visual artistry and spectacular feats that we have come to expect from the Cirque experience.

The ninth production from this international troupe, by far the most scripted, is a seamless melding of performance art, Broadway and pure thrills. Our guide is a disillusioned young girl (Audrey Brisson-Jutras/Amelie Landry) who is drawn into the world of Quidam (title refers to the nameless passer-by, or solitary figure on a street). She is escorted through a fantastical world where she gets to explore the wide range of emotions that eventually enable us to fully appreciate life.

That’s a rough summation considering that all of it is up for interpretation. The performers are still the soul of this production, and more than once, common notions of dexterity, gravity and contortion are defied in jaw-dropping stunts.

The all-new, 50-person troupe is truly amazing, ranging in skills from juggling to jumping rope. Isabelle Chasse’s aerial contortion in silk is a mesmerizing ballet 100 feet about the audience. These performances are fluid yet pulsating, combining music, imagery and other elements as diverse as the planet.

It’s important to keep in mind that this circus is not really for kids but for adults who are kids at heart. Some of the makeup and images are disturbing, as are the trio of devilish clowns. It’s as if Tim Burton’s vision of a circus were crossed with that of Ingmar Bergman. Discretion should be used with younger viewers.

Director David Mallet offers both whirling aerial images and closeups of the performers. Although Barrie Dodd’s lensing and opportune editing by David Gardener make for the best view in the house, there are times when the whole of the experience becomes lost on the viewer. As good as “Quidam” is on TV, the electricity of a live performance gets lost in the translation.

Costumes by Dominique Lemieux are a bit on the macabre side, but cleverly designed with the unique stunts in mind. Benoit Jutras’ music is ethereal and completely entrancing, always keeping pace with the performers.

Cirque du Soleil: Quidam

Bravo; Thurs. Dec. 9, 8 p.m.

Production: Filmed on location in Las Vegas by Cirque du Soleil Images and Serpent Films Prods. Executive producer, Peter Wagg; producer, Rock Oldham; director, David Mallet

Crew: Camera, Barrie Dodd; editor, Dave Gardener; music, Benoit Jutras; sound, Tob Alington. Running time: 120 MIN.

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