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NY Theater Reviews

A CHILL IN THE AIR

By Bill Stevenson

Wintuk, Cirque du Soleil's latest, may well entertain the kids, but adults will find it less than charming. And what's with the $15 programs?

Cirque du Soleil's new show may entertain kids, but adults who have been captivated by other, more stylish Cirque spectacles like Allegria will be underwhelmed. Wintuk boasts a talented cast of 50 performers and puppeteers as well as giant lampposts that come to life. But the seasonal production also features dreary dialogue and a let-it-snow storyline that, pardon the expression, left me cold.

Director Richard Blackburn wrote the script, which involves a boy named Jamie who lives in a city and is eager to see some snow. Jamie meets the Shaman, a homeless woman with magical powers, and along with two friends and six large shaggy dogs (marionettes operated by cleverly hidden puppeteers) they travel to a Nordic land called Wintuk. Jamie's dialogue includes clunkers like This is all amazing, you're awesome, but it's time for a flurry. The Shaman, meanwhile, lip-synchs to a deep, over-amplified voice that sounds like a man's.

Making matters worse, Simon Carpentier's music is a loud, bland mix of pop and hip-hop, and Patricia Ruel's urban backdrop in the first act is ugly, with garbage cans and clotheslines signifying city grit. (The second-act arctic set is prettier.)

If one can get past the subpar elements, Wintuk does have entertaining acts that are smoothly integrated into the story. The first half includes skillful cyclists, inline skaters, tightrope walkers, and jugglers, plus an impressive balancing act and a remarkably flexible woman disguised as a rag doll. In the second half a lovely contortionist works magic with hoops, and a Russian bars act has performers leaping in the air and landing on the bars. There's only one aerial number, and due to the WaMu Theater's low ceiling the two women aren't able to fly very high.

The winter-themed show ends-predictably-with massive amounts of paper snow falling on the audience. It's a nice effect, but it isn't as magical as the visually dazzling moments in previous Cirque extravaganzas. Perhaps kids will like the puppet dogs and talking lampposts, but many adults will find them cutesy. Grown-ups are also likely to cringe at the $15 price of a program.