EW's Special Coverage

Stage

Review

Cirque du Soleil (Fall 2003)

EW's GRADE
C

Details Lead Performance: Joey Arias; Writers: Dominic Champagne, Rene Richard Cyr; Directors: Dominic Champagne, Rene Richard Cyr

At the Las Vegas premiere of Zumanity -- in which Cirque du Soleil trades its big-top image for toplessness -- Hugh Hefner sat in the front row, surely gloating at having made this possible. The show at one point becomes a literal sexual revolution, as the cast make out on a spinning platform dubbed ''a lazy Susan of sex'' by drag-queen host Joey Arias. Two of Hef's gal pals were pulled on stage to participate in this orgiastic pantomime; asked how it was, one quipped, ''I feel at home.''

Therein lies a problem with Cirque's shift from family-friendly acrobatics to sexual gymnastics: Titillating tourists with artsy licentiousness can't help but feel as fresh as a Friars Club field trip to the grotto. Not that there's a dull moment in this $16 million hodgepodge of cabaret, contortionism, and Chippendales -- not between the gay wrasslin', the dancing blow-up doll, a flying ballet with a dwarf and an Amazon, and orgasmic aerial self-bondage.

Zumanity has some of the most beautiful things you may ever see on a stage, and some of the most embarrassing. A number in which two sapphic gymnasts dive breathtakingly in and out of a giant water bowl outdoes Cirque's own watery epic, O. But for every lovely moment there's a garden-variety stripper or some wretched vaudeville, like the recurring Puritans who try to halt the immorality, then (naturally) hump everything in sight, including -- hold your guffaws, please! -- a prop cow.

Maybe taste is moo-t in the 702 area code, but Mystere fans will find little mystery and lots of insistent pleas to give yourself over to absolute pleasure. ''Sex is beautiful,'' the resident R&B singer wails over the Sturm und Drag, and occasionally -- not nearly often enough -- Zumanity even seems to believe it. (888-693-6763) C

Originally posted Oct 10, 2003 Published in issue #732 Oct 10, 2003 Order article reprints