For a decade, Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo was a production that wowed audiences all over the world. After its record-breaking run in Cirque’s Montreal homebase (after only a month, it was reported more than 200,000 people attended the show, outpacing the record Varekai set with 180,000 tickets), this big-top extravaganza went on to attract more than 8 million people worldwide. But in December of 2015, after doing tours in Japan, Europe, and South America, Corteo closed up shop, its final performance held in Quito, Ecuador.
But earlier this month, Corteo started another run, and will travel North America for the next two years. The show makes a four-day, six-performance stop in Houston this week.
Inspired by The Grand Parade: Portrait of the Artist as a Clown, an art exhibit organized by the National Gallery of Canada in 2004, Corteo (Italian for “cortege” or procession) is about a clown — billed as Mauro the Dreamer Clown, of course — who imagines his own funeral.
Think of this as a Fellini-esque carnival broken down into 16 acts, featuring a cast made up of 51 acrobats, musicians, singers, and actors from around the globe. Expect artful jugglers (three young artists tossing rings, hoops and clubs), and acrobats dangling from chandeliers, aerial straps, and horizontal bars.
Unique music performances include artists "playing" crystal glasses and Tibetan bowls. The acrobatics continue with cast members bouncing back-and-forth on behemoth beds — six performers will jump on two, 600-pound beds that move on rotating platforms. All the while, a caring angel watches over the clown’s bed, and serves as his guide.
"People will feel surprised the moment they arrive at the arena, and face this huge stage that splits the space in two," Maxwell Batista, of Cirque du Soleil, tells CultureMap. "When the curtains goes up, you will see the audience on both sides. [This is] an experience imagined by the creator, to make people feel how it is to be onstage and watch the audience reaction." Batista notes that through the interaction of the artists, "you will see how extraordinary the human being can be. It is a theatrical and poetic show that will make people feel deeply moved and touched by this clown’s story."
Corteo has nixed the big top and has been re-staged for arenas this time around. But even with different digs, the show promises to be a lavish, wondrous spectacle. After all, it’s basically a fever dream of a clown — so expect it to be colorful, and crazy.
Corteo runs Thursday, March 8 through Sunday, March 11 at Toyota Center, 510 Polk St., 713-758-7200; Tickets start at $52.