Review: Cirque Shanghai: Cloud 9 (at Navy Pier)

A thrilling summer show for the entire family

 

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Cirque Shangha
i and Navy Pier present
  
Cirque Shanghai: Cloud 9
  
Directed by Miao Miao Chen
at the Skyline Stage, Navy Pier (map)
thru September 6th  |  tickets: $12-$29  |  more info

reviewed by Catey Sullivan

Never mind the official calendar. If Cirque Shanghai is in residence on Navy Pier, it must be summer in the city. In residence under the armadillo-shaped tent that is the Pier’s Skyline Stage, the Chinese import is back with its roster of spectacular  human oddities and jaw-dropping feats of strength, balance and grace. Think Cirque du Soleil, minus the artsy existential clowning and plus motorcycle stunt drivers. That’s the general aesthetic that informs Cirque Shanghai: Cloud 9.

Cirque-Shanghai-Cloud-Nine001 The new show brings new acts to the stage, chief among them those motorcycles. During the kinetic Imperial Thunder, a quartet of roaring bikes and their color-coordinated riders zip around like bees inside of a metal dome that you’d swear wasn’t large enough to accommodate even one rider let alone four. Inside the Imperial Thunder dome, the riders make it look easy, flying over and around each other in a display of centrifugal force and precision racing that’s a genuine jaw-dropper. On the other end of the spectrum? The contemplative Thousand Hand Guan Yin,  a golden-tinged illustration of a goddess with – yes – a thousand hands.

Those two acts illustrate the extremes of Cloud 9, the creation of Sylvia Hase with director Miao Miao Chen and Chicago-based choreographer Brenda Didier.  Whichever performance style you prefer – ear-drum rattling roars and performers in full-body whirl at break-neck pace or new-agey strings serenely accompanying hand-dancers creating illusions with the most delicate movements of their fingertips – Cirque Shanghai delivers plenty of it.

Performed by a troupe of elite circus performers aged 15 to 25, the show is pure eye candy. There’s no subtext to contortionism, nothing to deconstruct in a display of hat juggling. That’s absolutely fine. Cloud 9 is a seasonally appropriate wonder, entertainment that screams “leave your thinking caps at home, school’s out for the summer!”

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That’s not to say that the 18 acts within the production are anything less than top tier. Try not to ooh and aah at the Suspended Pole Acrobats as they leap, two stories up, between perilously swaying stalks. Ditto the gleefully silly  Bicycle Platform Balance, where in nine grinning cyclists form a pedaling human pyramid atop a single bicycle. There are also strong men, hoop divers and aerial artists whose skill spinning on silks evokes acrobatic spiders flying between web strands.

The look of the production is as marvelously over-the-top as the acts. Think Liberace meets Bob Mackie meets a Bedazzler set on stun and you get a sense of the show’s visual appeal. Cirque Shanghai: Cloud 9 might not ponder the depths of the human condition, but for pure fun, it’s tough to beat.

      
     
Rating: ★★★½
   
  

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2 Responses

  1. […] Of Mice and Men (Oak Park Festival Theatre)REVIEW: Inherit the Whole (Mortar Theatre Company)Review: Cirque Shanghai: Cloud 9 (at Navy Pier)Review: SUGAR (Drury Lane […]

  2. […] Shanghai: Cloud 9 (our review here ★★★½) has joined several other Navy Pier favorites to offer patrons the Navy Pier All-Day […]

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