For the first time, the Canadian-based entertainment franchise known as Cirque du Soleil has ventured into the large-scale arena market with “Delirium,” a music-saturated multi-media spectacle that is done in by its own superlative, overpowering visual effects. Created, designed and helmed by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, this overly long sight-and-sound fest surrounds 20 forgettable techno pop/world music tunes with an abundance of glitter but little substance.
Abandoning the circus tent, semi-circular audience seating of previous Cirque shows, the helmers have divided the cavernous Staples Center environs into two viewing areas with the audience halves facing each other. They are separated by a 130-foot stage area that is dwarfed by 540 feet of projection surfaces, equivalent to four Imax screens. Throughout the show, these surfaces are bombarded by 30 super-intensity projectors, creating thousands of often-breathtaking images that reduce the ambitious on-stage musical/theatrical offerings to the level of incidental fare.
It doesn’t help that the first 20 minutes of the evening are devoted to an underwhelming “opening act” featuring Canadian-based vocalist Nitza, backed by the “Delirium” house band Gaia, a percussion-dominated Brazilian ensemble based in Montreal, complemented by the superb violin work of Andree-Anne Tremblay. Nitza’s four-song set, a lackluster fusion of Middle Eastern rhythms and Latin rock, might be palpable in an intimate nightclub setting but is lost within the glare of the show’s production values.
After a 20-minute intermission, the main thrust of Cirque’s talent invades the stage area, utilizing myriad trap doors and flying rigs to thrust and float acrobatic bodies in and out of the action. The almost inconsequential thematic throughline features a guileless lost soul (Karl Baumann) who floats above the stage area, seeking human interaction. He is counter-balanced by a manic man-on-stilts (Adam Read) who is rooted to the earth and not too happy about it.
The on-going interplay of Baumann and Read, as well as the constant display of to-be-expected Cirque physical talent is meant to underscore and amplify the presentation of songs culled from previous Cirque shows. The 20-song score, with lyrics by Robbie Dillon and infused with a world-music beat by Francis Collard, is performed by various competent vocalists, including Canadians Dessy Di Lauro and Amanda Stott, as well as U.S.A.’s Juliana Sheffield.
The accompanying ensemble, Gaia, is bolstered by numerous instrumentalists that keep the musical energy pulsating throughout the show. Unfortunately, there is a melodic and rhythmic uniformity to these musical offerings that soon becomes tedious.
As the 100-minute show wears on, each succeeding song proceeds to sink further under the weight of the far more interesting flying aerialists, soaring acrobats, spectacular dancers and monolithic projected visuals that blanket everything.