TOTEM elicited audible oohs and aahs from the audience on opening night in San Jose. Bay Area residents have become accustomed to the big blue tent which the Cirque team hauls into a vacant parking lot every time the talented troupe comes into town. TOTEM was a refreshing experience. A family friendly performance that featured Cirque staples such as high flying acrobatics coupled with their usual ingenuity that creates a unique story line.
TOTEM has a simple message. It’s the process of our species. Many different stages of evolution are played out in front of the live audience. All with a flair, of course. The audience was baffled and entertained during Manipulation as “The Scientist,” a character played by Greg Kennedy, took normal chemistry instruments found in any laboratory and turned them into a musical instruments that included a giant beaker which he ended up inside of as neon dice spun around him.
There were gasps as six very large, very talented men balanced on top of large perches. One of the men was dozens of feet in the air swaying over his fellow performer who carried the weight of this particular perch on his forehead. The audience was cringing but couldn’t look away.
The largest applause of the night was for five young ladies spinning around the stage on unicycles as they flipped bowls into the air and caught the high flying objects on the tops of their heads. The act takes a lot of skill and the audience appreciated every moment of it. It was a highlight among two hours of amazing acts.
These three segments were sandwiched between an incredible trapeze duo who, basically, had a first date flying through the air. A talented roller skating duo and a great hoop dancer who had the audience on their feet. All of this took place on a stage that looked like a different world. One that the crowd was now a part of.
Each act was unique but also fit into the larger story line that TOTEM was telling. The show never lost sight of the larger idea in play. It was straight forward, fun and one of Cirque’s best efforts yet.
The audience was chattering about their favorite part of the show on the walk back to the parking lot. No doubt Cirque has been built on return customers. They continue to not only find the best entertainers in the world but pull all of the unique acts together by metaphorically relaying a story. In the case of TOTEM all of it culminated into an unforgettable experience.