Review: Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk

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A plot-driven theatrical piece replaces the traditional Cirque performances of yesteryear.

Cirque du Soleil: Toruk — The First Flight
Aug. 24 – 28; All ages
Bridgestone Arena
501 Broadway, Nashville
615-770-2000 • bridgestonearena.com
Showtimes: Wed – Fri 7:30 p.m., Sat 4 & 8 p.m., Sun 1 & 5 p.m.
Tickets: $47.05 – $119.50

While it’s a high-quality show, Cirque du Soleil’s latest installment, Toruk — The First Flight, suffers an identity crisis for classic Cirque fans drawn to the amazing feats of human dexterity the Cirque franchise used to provide.

Toruk pays homage to James Cameron’s 2009 blockbuster film, Avatar, by telling a story of the blue humanoid Na’vi people long before the events take place in the movie. Toruk’s tale finds the Na’vi threatened by natural causes ranging from earthquakes to the ominous beasts of the Pandora world like flying banshees, horse-like predators and the mighty Toruk, a giant flying harbinger of doom.

If you’re a die-hard Avatar fan, this show will certainly entertain you as it’s strength is drawing the audience into that fantasy world of creatures sporting a blue hue. However, if you’re going with the expectation of a traditional Cirque du Soleil performance, expect disappoinment.

Cirque du Soleil used to showcase the best capable feats of the human body in a circus-style atmosphere (sans live animals). Dancers, acrobats, gymnasts, jugglers, aerial artists and contortionists used to dominate the Cirque stage dazzling wide-eyed audiences young and old.  Toruk instead presents a plot-driven theatrical production that incorporates a couple of instances of aerial silk routines, a few hoop-jumping encounters and lots of pointless running around the highly enchanting, mystifying set design that takes up the entire arena floor.

The Toruk story involves two Na’vi warriors on a quest to five sacred objects in order to save their people. There are several visually stunning scenes throughout the show by way of state-of-the-art projection effects, giant puppets, colorful kites and other vibrant special effects — these are all quite impressive, but throughout the show, I found myself wanting much less talking/plot and more of the incredible Cirque feats from yesteryear.

Here’s hoping that the next time Cirque du Soleil comes around, we get a good dose of what it used to be.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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