I've seen at least eight Cirque du Soleil productions, most recently the Avatar-themed Toruk in Portland, Oregon. It played like an ultra-high-tech riff on Walking With Dinosaurs, so it wasn't what I've come to adore about Cirque du Soleil - I like my Cirque mostly human-powered. Minutes into Luzia, however, Cirque's latest touring show at Marymoor Park in Redmond, I thought, "Now we're talkin'". I'll cut to the chase: This is my favorite Cirque du Soleil show to date, which places it among the most astonishing shows I've beheld anywhere. If you have the dinero, book tickets now.
The house announcements invite us onto a flight southward to the sunny stomping grounds of my paternal Mexican ancestors. We've already met a befuddled traveler, played by Dutch clown Eric Fool Kooler, and diminutive metal gardeners played by - are those animatronics? Projections sweep across the gargantuan upstage disk; it appears tech will rule here again. But then a septet of tumblers run up a giant treadmill to dive artfully through loosely stacked rings in an act that puts that OK Go video to shame. They're followed by "Adagio," in which a "flyer" dancer is tossed sky-high by a burly "partner" dancer, and voila: superhumans in action.
I'd be hard-pressed to tell you which act was my favorite. Was it Angelica Bongiovanni and Rachel Salzman, two American dancers rolling inside cyr wheels? Was it the duo from Italy and Ginea, who juggle soccer balls in a manner that seems to defy not just gravity but common sense? No, surely it had to be Russian contortionist Aleksei Goloborodko, whose self-knotting abilities seem all the more incredible when executed by a male body. The music, by the way, with its Latin percussion, blaring trumpets and bellowing tubas, is incredible throughout, given human voice by Mexico's own Majo Cornejo. Just when you think you've seen everything this big top of wonders can hold, the ceiling unleashes - No, I'll save that surprise for audiences to discover. How it pays off is something I've never seen onstage, including multimillion-dollar theme park extravaganzas. I was stunned by the animal puppetry on display, which rivals previous milestones The Lion King and War Horse.
For my money, Cirque du Soleil has outdone itself. With 20 semicircular rows of (snugly packed) seats, every audience member gets a close view of the action. You'll see at least half a dozen impossible things in each act. Lest you think what you're seeing is mere digital trickery, that the performers can't be in as much danger as they appear to be, the climax of Luzia's opening-night performance in Redmond was interrupted when an acrobat, probably Oksana Klymenko of Ukraine, slid upon landing on a seesaw-like contraption. She was immobilized on a backboard and carried out to a much-deserved standing ovation. The Cirque organization says she's fine and will take her next flight soon. Bravo!
Luzia, 8 p.m., Tuesdays-Saturdays; 4 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays; 1 and 5 p.m., Sundays, through May 21, Marymoor Park, 6046 W. Lake Sammamish Parkway NE, Redmond, $35-$290, 844.379.0370