Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Varekai’ turns Royal Farms Arena into land of Fantasy - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Varekai’ turns Royal Farms Arena into land of Fantasy

Icarus’ decision to disobey his father turned out to be a good idea after all, at least in Cirque du Soleil’s mind.

Icarus, the boy whose father made wings for him, died when he drowned in the sea after his hubris led him to fly too close to the sun, causing his wings to melt, according to Greek legend.

Icarus descends into an enchanted rain forest to start Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai. (Photos by Jon Gallo)

Icarus descends into an enchanted rain forest to start Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai. (Photos by Joseph Gallo)

But in reality, he’s very much alive – so full of life he’s the star of Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai, where he lands in an mystical rain

forest instead of plummeting to his death.

Icarus is a newcomer in an enchanted land filled with exquisitely costumed creatures whose acrobatics defied gravity and dance moves captivated the crowd on Thursday’s opening night at Royal Farms Arena.

The story, which includes how Icarus upsets the community’s balance by falling in love with the village beauty, is simple and open to interpretation.

Varekai is told almost entirely without dialogue, as the performers’ movements, whether flying through the air or moving gracefully across the floor, tell the majority of the story in a show that’s become a staple in Cirque du Soleil’s portfolio.

It’s hard to pick Varekai’s highlight, as the use of aerial straps, Georgian dance, hand balancing, Russian swings, baton twirling and dances on crutches all seize their moments in the spotlight.

The acrobatics in Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai are worth the price of admission.

The acrobatics in Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai are worth the price of admission.

Musically, Varekai is just as impressive, as opera, accordions, guitars, violins, drums and a wide-ranging soundscape complement an elaborate, circular stage that features trees that actors climb.

Writer and director Dominic Champagne and artistic director Fabrice Lemire have created a two-set, two-hour show of nonstop action with some exhilarating scenes that could end terribly bad with the slightest misstep – a major reason why Varekai has withstood the test of time.

Varekai, which means “wherever” in the Romany language of the gypsies the universal wanderers, has been seen by eight million people in 72 cities within 20 countries worldwide since 2002. It’s not so much a show as a spectacle, as 600 costumes, including shoes, wigs and hats, are worn throughout the show, and each member of the 50-person cast representing 19 countries spends between 45 minutes and an hour applying makeup before taking the stage.

But 13 years of performances certainly prove the attention to detail has been time well spent, as a trip to Icarus’ new home is worth taking.

Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai

Where: Royal Farms Arena

When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday: 4 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1:30 p.m., 5 p.m.

Tickets: Thursday and Sunday: Adults: $145, $95, $75, $55, $35; Kids (2-12): $129, $48, $28; Seniors 65+, military, students: $145, $70.50, $52.50, $34.50. Friday and Saturday: Adults: $150, $100, $80, $60; Kids (2-12): $134, $53, $33

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