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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

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

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