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Cirque du Soleil

Review: ‘Zarkana’ will transport you to the world behind the big top

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Zarkana adds another impressive production to Cirque’s Las Vegas résumé.
Photo: Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

The Details

Zarkana
Three and a half stars
Friday-Tuesday, 7 & 9:30 p.m., $69-$180
Aria, 877-253-5847.

Welcome to Zarkana, Cirque du Soleil’s latest Las Vegas production. As you enter the theater, a Christopher Lloydian mad scientist, a goofy ukulelist and a handful of ballerinas—all dressed in whites and grays—prepare for showtime. They stretch, they pluck, they mingle, and then the theater goes dark. Two light-up organs play, and Zark, a powerless magician in red tails, takes the stage. Zarkana is his circus. Yes, Zarkana is a French Circus about a French Circus.

If you hang out with performers, you know what goes on backstage and after hours is often more amazing than what happens onstage. Zarkana cleverly taps into that behind-the-scenes feel. First up: A juggler in a green dress and green tights. She’s introduced with so little ado, the audience misses her skill. She bounces five balls without looking, then she bounces seven. You want to stand up and scream, Do you realize how effing hard that is?!

Next, a big guy climbs up an extra-thin extension ladder—with no support leg—and balances another ladder on his head. Then a girl climbs up both.

You meet a sand artist who sculpts so fast and so beautifully she makes AGT’s Joe Castillo look like a slow-motion hack. Then a wheel act (incredible, but identical to KÁ’s), then a tightrope act (conventional but impressive) and then a guy in white pajamas who uses his strength and the lack of friction between his PJs and a lubed-up mini-stage to lift and contort his body in the most amazing ways. He receives the most applause, but any of Zarkana’s acts could play the final slot. They’re all that good.

The lead clowns are, too, though their bits are dull. If they had the material from O or Mystère, they’d soar. Special mention goes to the Chenowethian (extra-loud, extra-petite) clown who snaps the lead clowns in line with a whip and a sharp tongue. Can we get her in a boxing ring with Penny Pibbets?

The singers are also excellent, Broadway-esque. The music is more radio-friendly than that of or O (simpler chord changes, simpler melodies), so it just doesn’t transport you the way some of the other Cirque soundtracks do.

O and take you into the pages of a wonderful, unwritten Dr. Seuss book. Zarkana is great, too, but it keeps you at Aria.

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