nytheatre.com review by Jason S. Grossman
November 11, 2009
The producers of Cirque du Soleil have once again revamped the circus creating a plush winter-themed playland. Wintuk gives us an array of incredibly gifted acrobats, contortionists, and jugglers against a lavish backdrop of jovial lampposts and colossal feathered cranes.
With a shaman as his guide, the boy, Jamie, meets an assortment of crayon-colorful characters in his quest for an answer. They all eventually arrive in the imaginary land of Wintuk.
Writer/director Richard Blackburn's story is minimal: a young boy's search for snow. Dialogue is almost nonexistent except for the boy's occasional query, "Where's the snow?" The creators might have been better off developing more of a coherent narrative or opting to eliminate one entirely. In fact, how the various acrobatic acts and jugglers assist the young boy in his quest for snow is somewhat of a mystery.
After you accept that this is the modern circus-with-a-twist we've come to expect from Cirque, you can sit back and relish the acts. There is magic to behold thanks to the spectacular gravity- and logic-defying athleticism of the international cast of artists.
One sequence zooms into the next, ensuring nonstop action for those with short attention spans. The stage is frequented by skateboarders, cyclists, and dancers shooting by as the principal artists perform. This merging of traditional circus elements with cartoon imagery is when Wintuk works best.
Along with Jamie and the shaman, we are treated to silly slapstick from the aptly named Wimpy and a mischievous young girl. Not surprisingly, even these characters can twist, flip, turn, and spin with superhuman facility.
Many of the acts delight. The juggling segment is terrific. The conventional tightrope performance is given new life reworked on a saggy clothesline. Multiple acts involving hoops are enjoyable. Of special note are the bicyclists. They appear at various points during the show and consistently drew gasps from the audience at the show I attended. Fans of yoga will be particularly inspired by the rag doll segment.
Considering how we've grown to expect the unbelievable, some of the sequences are not quite out-of-this-world. In particular, the cops-and-robbers sequence on the trampoline doesn't evoke the oohs and ahs one might hope. An early sequence involving skateboards is not fully realized.
This is a squeaky clean show for the entire family. Perhaps with sanitizing, some of the exhilaration commonly associated with the Cirque brand has been inadvertently filtered out. Even the frequent high-fiving that's done between Jamie and the other characters lacks a certain spunk.
The music by Simon Carpentier is lush and consistent with the Cirque style, but not as memorable as with previous productions. The puppetry and video projections by Francis Laporte are excellent. The sets (Patricia Ruel) and costumes (Francois Barbeau) look gorgeous with a blue-white glow to make your eyes sing. There are animated lampposts, dancing sheepdogs and incredible ice monsters that will enchant children of all ages. And the finale will bring the house down.