Somebody should have warned Cirque du Soleil Theatrical that it would be an iffy business trying to bring Broadway to Broadway. “Paramour” is an ambitious departure from the company’s tried-and-true spectacle formula, in that it observes the structural conventions of a legit Broadway musical. The show has a book (corny), a score of show tunes (mindless), and a cast of singing and dancing actors playing recognizable character roles. More happily, it also has those aerialists, acrobats, jugglers, and tumblers we love — and plenty of spectacle.
One company tradition still holds: The sensational design elements immediately knock you right between the eyes. The aesthetic is the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s, which translates visually into an explosion of gilded bas-relief sculptural art and geometric wall patterns with more rigid right angles than the Republican Party platform. The stylized sets (by Jean Rabasse) use stacks of stairs to set up glittering scenes in nightclubs and penthouses and speakeasies and movie sets. And the extravagant costumes (by Philippe Guillotel) cling to supple bodies like molten gold.
The book sticks to its stolid task of creating a romantically tragic Hollywood tale of pride, ambition, possessive love and a lust for power. The tyrannical A.J. Golden (Jeremy Kushnier), acknowledged to be “the world’s greatest director,” is determined to create the world’s greatest motion picture and make a star of his protegee, a cafe singer named Indigo (Ruby Lewis, a big belter). (“She’s my muse / My grand inspiration” goes one of the prosaic lyrics.) That’s all the excuse the creatives need to unreel a series of vignettes, starring Indigo and recalling movieland’s greatest love stories, from “Mata Hari” to “Casablanca.”
To make this plot summary mercifully brief, the film is a great success, Indigo becomes a star. But when A.J. resolves to marry her and make them both immortal, Indigo finally rebels.
Meanwhile the usual assortment of brilliant body artists are doing their thing in the background. On occasion, smart connections are made between the stage acts and the movie romance. When the principals go to a speakeasy, waiters flip themselves around poles and dash by on roller skates, while diners perform tricky acrobatic turns on the cafe tables. In the same vein, a lively troupe of tumblers capture all the fun and high spirits of a thrilling chase sequence staged atop the New York building skyline.
A few of these visually connective acts are even more substantive. At the climactic moment when Indigo must choose between the man she loves and the man who has made her a star, her dilemma is reflected in a breathtaking “Love Triangle” danced to the tune of a sexy tango by three aerialists suspended in mid-air. And while it doesn’t exactly parallel a specific book scene, a jaw-dropping high-wire act performed by the phenomenal twin aerialists, Andrew and Kevin Atherton, is more authentically beautiful and sensually alluring than any of the claptrap going on below.