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Bye Bye Birdie Knocks It Out of The Park With Broadway Headliners at the Kennedy Center

Bye Bye Birdie Knocks It Out of The Park With Broadway Headliners at the Kennedy Center

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Broadway Center Stage
Jordan Wright
June 11, 2024

Christian Borle and Krysta Rodriguez (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

Music publisher slash songwriter, Albert Peterson, is in love with his secretary, Rose Alvarez. Head of Almaelou Music Corp. Named after his mother Mae, Lou his beloved dead dog and Al his late father, Albert’s a momma’s boy and as much as he loves Rosie, his super savvy, gorgeous Latina girlfriend, he has commitment phobia. After eight years of devotion to Albert, Rosie is ready to move on.

Albert’s biggest star is rocker Conrad Birdie, an utterly unmanageable sot with a massive fan club of nubile teens. Dreaming up a clever publicity stunt, Albert orchestrates a press event culminating with Conrad kissing the president of Conrad’s fan club on the Ed Sullivan Show. From a stack of fan mail, he chooses the beautiful but recently pinned, Kim Macafee, proud resident of Sweet Apple, Ohio, and President of the Conrad Birdie Fan Club.

Ephram Sykes and Company (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

Predictably, things go south, but not before we meet Alberts’s mother, Mae, Kim’s mom, Doris Macafee, her cranky, authoritarian  dad, Harry Macafee, little brother, Randolph, her fellow fan club members, her steady, Hugo Peabody, and a host of truckers in Charles Maude’s low-down bar in Sweet Apple, fondly known as “The Bellybutton of America”.

This huge revival with its 50’s costumes, 50’s mores and 50’s technology is just as relevant today as it was when it opened on Broadway in 1958, one year after Elvis was drafted into the U. S. Army. So, yes, it has elements of the phenomenon of crazed teenage fans high on their idol, but this Tony Award-winning blockbuster has brilliant choreography, buckets of laughs, unforgettably catchy numbers by the Tony Award-winning collaborators – Composer, Charles Strouse and Lyricist Lee Adams and a Broadway cast that delivers in spades.

Sweet Apple Teens (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

You’ll either recall or swoon to the big numbers – “A Healthy, Normal American Boy”, Rosie’s big song-and-dance solo, “Spanish Rose”, “Honestly Sincere”, “One Last Kiss”, “A Lot of Livin’ to Do”, “Kids”, and the beautiful ballad sung by Albert to Rosie “Baby, Talk to Me”.

Backed by the Kennedy Center’s Opera House Orchestra, 22-strong members who remain onstage, it is a song and dance fest, featuring some of the most amazing voices from both stage and screen. The acting chops are spot on, the comedic timing unparalleled, the dancing hyper-energetic and the story – absolutely irresistible. This tremendously loveable musical has everything, and I adored every minute of it.

Miguel Gil and Ashlyn Maddox (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

You’ll recognize many of the cast – Christian Borle as Albert, who has garnered several “Best Actor” Tony Awards and starring TV roles (he reminded me of the mega-star Dick Van Dyke the ace dancer and comedian); Richard Kind as Kim’s dad, Harry, whom you’ll recognize as the award-winning character actor from stage and screen with his memorable roles in A Serious ManYoung SheldonThe ProducersCurb Your EnthusiasmThe Goldbergs and many more; Krysta Rodriguez, a brilliant hoofer with a mega-watt smile who has starred on Broadway, TV sitcoms and film in such blockbusters as Argo and Tick, Tick… Boom.

Ditto for multi-Tony, Drama Critic and Outer Critics Circle nominee, Ephraim Sykes, as Conrad who was seen on Broadway in Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations, Hamilton and Newsies.

1Ephraim Sykes and Company (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

And featuring the queen of the slow burn, Caroline Aaron, who plays Mrs. Mae Peterson, Albert’s mother and the consummate “New Yawker” Jewish mother whom you’ll recognize as Shirley Maisel in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, plus far too many top roles on stage and screen to mention here.

It’s not just a host of big-time singers, hoofers and comedians, but a cast that meshes magnificently in one cohesive, laugh out loud, crazy-wonderful show.

Five Stars (if I gave out stars which I don’t) for Best of the Best Musicals on a DC stage!

Christian Borle and Caroline Aaron (Photo/Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

With the stunning voice of Ashlyn Maddox as Kim Macafee, Sarah Chu as Helen, Dori Waymer as Nancy, Kelly Lomonte as Margie, Jalen Michael Jones as Freddie, Luke Kolbe Mannikus as Karl, Maria Cristina Posada Slye as Penelope, Victor De Paula Rocha as Harvey, Rennell Taylor as Charlie, Evan Kinnane as Mike, Jackera Davis as Ursula Merkle, Miguel Gil as Hugo Peabody, Jennifer Laura Thompson as Mrs. Doris Macafee, Kevin Ligon as Mayor, Allison Blackwell as Mayor’s Wife, Kevin McAllister as Mr. Merkle and Charles F. Maude, Linda Muggleston as Mrs. Merkle, Megan Sikora as Gloria Rasputin and Mrs. Johnson, and Henry Kirk as Randolph Macafee.

Director Marc Bruni, Music Director John Bell, Choreographer Denis Jones, Music Director John Bell, Book by Michael Stewart, Scenic Design by Lee Savage, Costume Design by Linda Cho, Lighting Design by Cory Pattak, Sound Design by Haley Parcher, Production Design by Nathan Scheuer, Hair & Wig Designer Tom Watson.

Through June 15th at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20566. For tickets and information call the box office at 202 467-4600 or visit www.Kennedy-center.org

What’s Onstage in the DMV – July/Early August 2024

What’s Onstage in the DMV – July/Early August 2024

Jordan Wright
June 8, 2024
Special to The Zebra

American Psycho
Where: Monumental Theatre
When: through July 21
Find more information at: www.MonumentalTheatre.org

Back to the Future
Where: Kennedy Center
When: July 23 – Aug 11
Find more information at: www.Kennedy-Center.org

Funny Girl
Where: Kennedy Center
Then: through July 14
Find more information at: www.Kennedy-Center.org

Logan Festival
Where: 1ST Stage
When: July 18 – July 23
Find more information at: www.1stStage.org

God is God (Image via Constellation Theatre Company)

Is God Is
Where: Constellation Theatre Company
When: through July 14
Find more information at: www.ConstellationTheatre.org

The Colored Museum
Where: Studio Theatre
When: July 3 – Aug 11
Find more information at: www.StudioTheatre.org

The Moors
When Faction of Fools
Where: July 18 – Aug 10
Find more information at: www.FactionofFools.org

Noises Off
Where: Keegan Theatre
When: July 27 – Sept 1
Find more information at: www.KeeganTheatre.com

The Wizard of Oz
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: July 6 – Aug 4
Find more information at: www.ThePuppetCo.org

The Wizard of Oz (Image Via Port Tobacco Players)

The Wizard of Oz
Where: Port Tobacco Players
When: July 12 – Aug 4
Find more information at: www.PTPlayers.com

Jersey Boys
Where: Toby’s Dinner Theatre
When: through Sept 1
Find more information at:  www.TobysDinnerTheatre.com

Beautiful The Carole King Musical
Where: Olney Theatre Center
When: July 3 – Aug 25
Find more information at: www.OlneyTheatre.org

Rumours of Fleetwood Mac
Where: Aug 9 and 10
When: Broadway at the National
Find more information at: www.TheNationalDC.com

Aerialist is Julia Baccellieri in Hamlet (Photo/Maya Shkolnik)

Hamlet
Where: New York Circus Project
When: July 31 – Aug 11
Find more information at: www.NewYorkCircusProject.org/tickets

HA HA HA HA HAHA HA
Where: Woolly Mammoth
When: July – Aug 4
Find more information at: www.WoollyMammoth.net

Alice in Wonderland
Where: Compass Rose Theater
When: July 19 – July 28
Find more information at: www.CompassRoseTheater.org

Memphis
Where: The Little Theatre of Alexandria
When: July 20 – Aug 10
Find more information at: www.TheLittleTheatre.com

Jersey Boys
Where: Baltimore Theater
When: through Sep 1
Find more information at: www.Baltimore-Theater.com

Mark Twain’s Hilarious Farce Is He Dead? at the Little Theatre of Alexandria

 Mark Twain’s Hilarious Farce Is He Dead? at the Little Theatre of Alexandria

Mark Twain’s Is He Dead?
The Little Theatre of Alexandria
Jordan Wright
May 29, 2024
Special to The Zebra

Sarah Keisler, Lanny Warkentien (Photo/Matthew Randall)

How to pump up the audience and give them a taste of what’s to come? Open with the soundtrack of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and, bam! We’re in Paris. That’s how Director Joey Pierce prepares the audience for Mark Twain’s Is He Dead?  Set in the Barbizon area, it’s a zany comedy about how an artists’ works are worth buckets more dough when he’s dead. The trick is convincing buyers that the artist is truly dead and not just on the Barbary Coast, which is their big, thankfully unchallenged, lie. Three friends and the artist himself, all very much in debt and needing money to escape jail, ignominy and poverty, conjure a way out of their fraught situation, offering up lots of absurdities for us to gobble up.

Mark Twain (pen name of the great American writer, Samuel Clemens) represents all the irreverence and general societal nose-thumbing I found exquisitely redeeming as a young reader. Like me, many of his fans are unfamiliar with his little-known foray into playwriting. This recently unearthed comedy should set the record straight and serve to bring new fans to his work.

Hanlon Smith-Dorsey, Brendan Chaney, Zachary Litwiller, Lanny Warkentien (Photo/Matthew Randall)

Discovered by Twain scholar, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, in an archive of his works at UC Berkeley, the farce was brought to Broadway in 2007 with the help of contemporary playwright, David Ives, who adapted the production.

It tells a fictional story of the famed pastoral painter, Jean-Francois Millet (Lanny Warkentien), who is in love with the beautiful Marie Leroux (Sarah Keisler) but in debt to Bastien Andre (Kirk Lambert). If Millet can’t come up with the dough, Andre wants to marry Marie. The action opens at Millet’s studio where he and his pals, Agamemnon Buckner “Chicago” (Brendan Chaney), Phelim O’Shaughnessy (Zachary Litwiller) and Hans von Bismarck “Dutchy” (Hanlon Smith Dorsey) are plotting to get Millet out of imminent danger. This trio of copains are as disparate as could ever be conjured up. Here’s where the plot is hatched to fake Millet’s death. They will rake up the prices and invite Basil Thorpe (Justin Beland), a villainous British art dealer art dealer to return. Naturellement, nothing goes as planned and that’s when the fun begins.

They invite him to return on the pretext of announcing the terrible news and he falls for it, buying up all the paintings at hugely inflated prices. Disguising Millet as Millet’s grieving widow is the first step and Warkentien steals the show in a hot pink satin frock with over-sized paniers. I thought of Milton Berle and Jonathan Winters – both comedians well-known for their cross-dressing characters. Two elderly ladies, Mdme. Bathilde (Beverly Gholston) and Mdme. Caron (Anne Shively), friends of the artist who know nothing about the switcheroo, come for tea with the “widow” and pass off “her” odd behavior as a woman grieving the loss of her husband.

Kirk Lambert, Brendan Chaney, Lenny Warkentien, Sarah Keisler, Alayna Theunissen (Photo/Matthew Randall)

From a humble artist’s atelier in the first act to a lavish set design of a drawing room in Act Two of the now, well-to-do widow’s 19th century maison attended by her nutty butler Charlie (Justin Beland), we are privy to a sea change in Millet’s fortunes. Drawing on burlesque this witty comedy exposes the perils and deceptions of the art world.

This cast clicks, but it’s Brendan Chaney as Chicago and Lanny Warkentien who are both the glue and the energy that take this farce to the next level.

Great fun and a terrific summer romp!

With the cast in multiple roles and a slew of costume changes. Alayna Theunissen as Cecile Leroux; Leo Mairena as Papa Leroux; Lanny Warkentien as Jean-Francois Millet and the Widow Tillou; Beverly Gholston as Madame Bathilde and Emperor of Russia; Anne Shively as Madame Caron and the Sultan of Turkey; Justin Beland as Basil Thorpe, Reporter, Charlie and the King of France. Understudy Justin von Stein plays Millet/Tillou on May 22, 31and June 1.

Original adaption by David Ives; Set Design by Matt Liptak; Lighting Design by Adam Konowe; Sound Design by Alan Wray and Christine McShay; Costume Design by Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley; Makeup and Hair Design by Sue Pinkman.

Through June 8th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. For tickets and information visit www.The Little Theatre.com or call the box office at 703 683-5778.

Folger Theatre’s Metamorphoses Is a Wild and Wacky Trip

Folger Theatre’s Metamorphoses Is a Wild and Wacky Trip 

Folger Shakespeare Theatre
Jordan Wright
May 16, 2024
Special to The Zebra

The Water Nymph (Miss Kitty) introduces us to the mythical tales of Ovid (Photo/Brittany Diliberto)

Playwright Mary Zimmerman is a national treasure. With two productions currently running in DC theaters and last year’s Helen Hayes Award-winning production of The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, her reputation in our area is firmly cemented. I’ll see anything with her name on it. You should too.

In Metamorphoses Zimmerman uses stories from David Slavitt’s translation of the Latin poet Ovid’s masterpiece written in 8 A.D. to form the foundation of this dramedy that puts these ancient myths in modern context describing the history of the world in a hilariously topsy-turvy vision of the classic.

Hunger (Yesenia Islesias, left) breathes spirit into Erysichthon (Gerrad Alex Taylor) (Photo/Brittany Diliberto)

Most of the vignettes here are the familiar cautionary tales of greed, lust, incest…oh let’s just proffer the seven deadly sins and call it a day. Under Director Psalmayene 24’s singularly creative interpretation we find an all-Black ensemble playing multiple parts in a flurry of costume changes to express the multiple roles each actor portrays within the individual vignettes.

Psalmayene has conjured up one of the most explosive openings seen on DC stages. It is so stunning that the audience goes utterly silent. Led by the Water Nymph (Miss Kitty) the entourage parades through the center aisle, tribal dancing, whirling, summoning the Gods with African music as they arrive onstage. There they undergo an a sort of transmogrification – as captured slaves undergoing the Middle Passage from their ancestral lands. Tossed by a tempest at sea, their journey reflects the pain and degradation of a slave market. From that dramatic unveiling, our storytellers find themselves in dire circumstances humorously expressed through costume, character and morphing appearance. Because the actors play multiple parts, I found it tricky to puzzle out who played which character. That’s a testimonial to the extraordinary costume design by Mika Eubanks, who has created here some of the most beautiful, zany, over-the-top and imaginative costumes I’ve seen all year.

Cast sings “King Fisher” song in Folger Theatre’s staging of Metamorphoses. Pictured top: DeJeanette Horne and Billie Krishawn; bottom, left to right: Manu Kumasi, Kalen Robinson, and Yesenia Iglesias. (Photo/Brittany Diliberto)

Imagine the goddess, Iris, sporting a pink Afro with a frilly rainbow-hued and ruffled tutu – another character super fly in full-on glittering gold and white and the morphing of Alcyone (Renee Elizabeth Wilson) who with her beloved husband take the form of birds, reflecting the well-known phrase ‘halcyon days”.

There’s a lot to be said for brevity when it comes to complex themes of love and loss and in these stories, the objective is clear. In each piece we meet the hapless cast of characters and learn of the hot mess they’ve gotten themselves into challenged and complicated by the muse or god positioned on high – in this case upon the balcony. The frailties and passions of mere mortals are highlighted, while the gods, busy spewing their edicts and curses, become fodder for ridicule with the moral of the story revealed after each vision quest.

Narcissus (Gerrad Alex Taylor) accepts a flower from the Water Nymph (Miss Kitty) (Photo/Brittany Diliberto)

The choice of Midas (brilliantly played by Jon Hudson Odom) as the opening myth, is a good one, since we all know the tale of the greedy king who wished everything he touched turned to gold unfortunately that included most his beloved daughter (Kalen Robinson). Clad in a green velvet jacket and crown, Midas rues the day he threw over his daughter for the golden touch and goes on a mission to undo the terrible curse. Odom, totally tricked out, returns as Orpheus busting Motown moves to James Brown’s “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine)” and Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”. And, boom! We are laughing our tailfeathers off.

Metamorphoses shows that it is possible to speak of enigmatic things when they are creatively and hilariously interpreted and passionately performed by an ensemble of such high calibre.

Lighting Designer William K. D’Eugenio and Scenic Designer Lawrence E. Moten III have crucial tasks since there are no set changes and no curtains to draw. Along with Sound Designer and Composer Nick Tha 1DA Hernandez, ambiance is key to support the stories. And because the wigs and hair designs are so over the top, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Designer Rueben D. Echoles.

Highly recommended!

The cast of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses (Photo/Brittany Diliberto)

With Edwin Brown as Third Man: Phaeton and others; Dejeanette Horne as First Man: Zeus and others; Renea S. Brown as Third Woman: Myrrha and others; Yesenia Iglesias as First Woman: Aphrodite and others; Billie Krishawn as Second Woman: Eurydice and others; Manu Kumasi as Fourth Man: Vertumnus and others; Gerrad Alex Taylor as Fifth Man: Bacchus and others.

Artistic Director, Karen Ann Daniels; Choreographer, Tony Thomas; Original Composer, Willy Schwarz; Sound Designer, Nick Tha 1DA Henrnandez; Props Designer Deb Thomas; Dramaturg, Faedra Chatard Carpenter PhD.

Through June 16th at the Folger Theatre, Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC – For tickets and information visit www.folger.edu or call the box office at 202 544-7007. 

The Washington National Opera’s Ending for Puccini’s Turandot Shines with a Multinational Cast at The Kennedy Center

The Washington National Opera’s Ending for Puccini’s Turandot Shines with a Multinational Cast at The Kennedy Center

Turandot
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Jordan Wright
May 15, 2024

Ewa Płonka (Photo/Cory Weaver)

Turandot, the Washington National Opera’s final production for this season, opened on its glittering ‘Gala Night’. For those of you who despair of theatregoers sporting jeans and backpacks, this would have been your night to shine. Elegantly gowned, bejeweled and tuxedoed were the opera aficionados who transported us back to the halcyon days when Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned the nation’s most prestigious cultural center beside the Potomac River and audiences arrived in all their splendor.

This production presented us with an exciting new ending for this iconic Puccini opera, written yet unfinished before his untimely death. It has been 100 years since his demise and a collaboration between WNO General Director, Timothy O’Leary and WNO Artistic Director, Francesca Zambello, selected a lyricist and composer to replace the ending that had been written by Franco Alfano 100 years ago. That premiere was in 1926 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan under the baton of the great Toscanini.

Yonghoon Lee (Calaf) Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha (Liù) (Photo/Cory Weaver)

This new ending was written by playwright/screenwriter Susan Soon He Stanton (HBO’s Succession) along with composer Christopher Tin (two-time Grammy winner of concert and media music) who amplified the score creating the final twenty minutes of new music and employing the “axe motif” – a series of five chords that sound like the executioner’s axe falling on Turandot’s suitor and that reoccurs throughout the opera.

This massive production has been an enormous undertaking with an ensemble consisting of 60 adults, 20 youth, 10 dancers, 10 supernumeraries, 73 musicians, 14 banda, two conductors, 40 stagehands, seven in wig and makeup – 275 plus staff backstage. The cast itself is multinational.

A brief synopsis of the story features Turandot, a bloodthirsty Chinese princess, whose ancestor was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a stranger. This becomes the raison d’être for her murderous campaign to challenge each of her suitors to answer three questions correctly in order to win her hand. (One wonders if she doesn’t change the answers to suit her desires.) In any case, if they do not answer satisfactorily, it’s off with their heads. A three-story guillotine is brought onstage to emphasize her barbaric desires.

Scene from WNO Turandot (Photo/Cory Weaver)

After a number of suitors are summarily dispatched for their inaccurate responses, along comes Prince Calaf, a reckless youth who is determined against all odds and pleadings from his father, the exiled king Timur, Liù the sweet slave girl who secretly loves him, and the three ministers to give up his quest. But, oh no, our man Calaf ignores all warnings as he is guided only by his desire to win the hand of Turandot. As a story aiming to reflect a more modern China, Set Designer Wilson Chin, gives us a look straight out of Germany’s Brutalist architecture with three floors of metal scaffolding where the refugees and abandoned retinues watch the hideous acts unfold.

Polish soprano Ewa Plonka conjures Turandot’s evil intentions belting out her ferocity like a fire-breathing dragon in a multi-layered performance against the softer-voiced tenor Yonghoon Lee as the feckless young Calaf. Yet it’s the passionately ardent Liù performed by soprano Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha’s in her richly transcendent mellifluous voice, that provide the beauty amid the horror.  The three ministers, formerly known as Ping, Pang and Pong, have been appropriately renamed as Majordomo (Ethan Vincent), Majordomo (Sahel Salam), and Head Chef Jonathan Pierce Rhodes). Emperor Altoum is Turandot’s father and is played by Neil  ShicoffPeixin Chen plays Timur, Calaf’s father. You will be comforted by the Disneyesque happy ending as Turandot comes to her senses and Calaf wins her heart, although after enduring the horrors of Turandot’s reign, the denouement is a hard pill to swallow.

Neil Shicoff (Emperor Altoum) (Photo/Cory Weaver)

Directed by Francesca Zambello, the evening’s performance, a co-production with the WNO, Opèra de Montrèal and Dallas Opera, was dedicated to Washington’s own visionary philanthropist, David M. Rubenstein, who after a fourteen-year leadership leaves an inspiring legacy on the future of the WNO.

With the WNO’s Opera Chorus, Children’s Chorus and Corps Dancers, it also stars Le Bu as Mandarin and soprano Margorie Owens as an alternate in the role of Turandot and tenor Jonathan Burton as an alternate in the role of Calaf.

Speranza Scappucci and Aaron Breid conduct; Choreographer Kanji Segawa; Costume Designer Linda Cho; Lighting Designer Amith Chandrashaker; Projection Designer S. Katy Tucker; Dramaturg Kelley Rourke, and Associate Director Anna Maria Bruzzese.

A triumph for this marvelous cast and creative team.

Ewa Płonka (Turandot) and Yonghoon Lee (Calaf) (Photo/Cory Weaver)

Through May 25 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW, Washington, DC 20566. For tickets and information call the box office at 202 467-4600 or visit Kennedy-Center.org.

Corteo Features an Elegant Victorian Vibe with All the Dazzling Acrobatics You Have Come to Expect from Cirque du Soleil

Corteo Features an Elegant Victorian Vibe with All the Dazzling Acrobatics You Have Come to Expect from Cirque du Soleil

Corteo
at Eagle Bank Arena
Jordan Wright
May 18, 2024
Special to The Zebra

(Photo/Maja Prgomet)

I’ve been covering Cirque du Soleil for twelve years when they first came to the DC Metropolitan area with Amaluna at National Harbor. Since then, all their productions have been in a massive tent in Tysons II. Last night they brought Corteo to the Eagle Bank Arena at George Mason University.  Instead of their iconic basketball games , the arena was constructed to fit a theatre-in-the-round that utilized around half of the 10,000 seat arena which was filled to capacity.

Corteo which means cortege in Italian is a joyful procession, a festive parade imagined by a clown. The costumes and set design are of the Art Nouveau period and as such are quite charming and elegant. Quite different from the more recent productions which are enormous and with all the activities onstage, the innumerable spotlights and large ensemble can often be confusing and distracting. It opens with the central character of the hapless clown getting his wings from an angel who teaches him how to fly heavenward. Beautiful angels two-stories high factor a great deal in the entire production. The spoken words are partly in English, partly in Italian and partly in French with the foreign languages using a vocabulary easy to understand.

(Photo/Maja Prgomet)

The clown pictures his funeral taking place in a carnival atmosphere, watched over by angels. Juxtaposing the large with the small, the ridiculous with the tragic, the magic of perfection with the charm of imperfection, the show focusses on the strength and fragility of the clown, as well as his wisdom and kindness.

The show combines the actor’s passion with the acrobat’s grace and power to plunge the audience into a fantasy world of silliness and spontaneity in a mysterious space between heaven and hell. It harkens back to the olden days of circuses and pantomimes, hilarious sketches and extraordinary feats of daring.

Pillow fights on trampolines disguised as brass beds evoke the period as does the music of the era with the accordion being prominent and an oompah band visible towards the rear of the stage and musicians and singers in globe-lit boxes on either side of the stage.

(Photo/Maja Prgomet)

There are crazy-funny comedy sketches – one of two Scotsmen golfers in their plus fours hitting a ‘live ball’ whose head pops up from beneath the stage while teasing the duffers who thankfully never manage to hit the ‘ball’. Many of the characters sport satin Pierrot harlequin costumes or big bloomers echoing the period. The Maestro in red satin cutaway jacket and black top hat whistles Mozart. In one juggling scene dozens of rubber chicken fall from the rafters, in another, gypsies compete in a daredevil parallel bars competition. There are countless scenes of stunning beauty and extraordinary athleticism – one such features a tiny lady appearing to be in a snow globe. Jugglers and aerialists feature prominently with all acts backed by a beautifully melodic musical score. I was particularly drawn to two small performers enacting Romeo and Juliet in a Punch and Judy routine within a scaled down Teatro Intimo. A bicycle-riding highwire act and gorgeous lady acrobats on chandeliers had us gasping.

The creativity in all of Cirque’s shows is boundless, although I found that, though smaller in scale to what we have been accustomed to with Cirque in the Grand Chapiteau, Corteo was more intimate and elegant, and just as mind-blowing as any of the dozen or so productions I had seen in the past.

(Photo/Maja Prgomet)

Corteo is as beautiful as it is thrilling and endearing at the same time. With set curtains inspired by the Eiffel Tower and gorgeous hand-painted central curtains, the ambiance is one of immersive time travel.

Directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, this one will forever be one of my all-time favorites.

Highly recommended!!!

At the Eagle Bank Arena, 4500 Patriot Circle, Fairfax, VA 22030

Performance Schedule – May 17th at 7pm, May 18th at 3pm and 7pm, May 19th at 1pm, and May 25th at 3pm and 7pm. Tickets at www.CirrqueduSoleil.com/Corteo