09/07/2012 05:52 EDT | Updated 09/10/2012 02:55 EDT

Cirque Du Soleil <em> Amaluna </em> Review: Canadian Circus Captivates On Toronto's Opening Night


Thursday evening marked the Toronto premiere of Cirque du Soeil's Amaluna, the Montreal entertainment company's 32nd production. Beneath the the company's iconic yellow tent, the Blue and Yellow Big Top, a clown takes centre stage as a series of spotlights shine down upon her.

Her dialogue, muddled by her comically heavy French accent, is a little difficult to understand -- but that's not a problem, since it's her outfit and gestures that speak volumes.

"No panic," she jokes, clad in a sunflower-yellow dress that's only outdone by her orange leggings, magenta shoes and red nose, pointing to the tent's multiple exits. What's a circus performance without a little humour, right?

It also wouldn't be a Cirque du Soleil show without high-flying acrobatics, awe-inspiring feats of strength and flexibility wrapped in a package laced with music, dance, and a story.

And so Amaluna delivers on all counts, though with varying levels of success. No doubt newcomers to Cirque du Soleil will be impressed with the show's 11 acts. Seasoned veterans of the franchise will be happy to know that feats such as the Chinese Pole, Icarian Games and Watermeteors, and Manipulation are new -- and just as impressive as their names sound.

Checkout some of Amaluna 's acts in the gallery below. Story continues after the gallery:

Cirque Du Soleil's Amaluna

Classic staples like Juggling, Aerial Straps and the Human Contortionists return, but with added elements like fire and water that keep the performances fresh. Take the contortionist, for example, whose act of convincing the audience that a human pretzel can exist becomes even more difficult as she dives in and out of a water bowl moments after twisting and contorting her body while balancing precariously on one hand about 10 feet in the air above the stage.

The Manipulation, while nowhere as flashy, is also a highlight of the roughly 135-minute show. If you ever thought balancing sticks was a task that couldn't evoke boisterous applause from an audience, then you need to see this performance. Also noteworthy is the musical score -- a guitar-heavy ensemble that's well suited for adrenaline-pumping performances of the Uneven Bars and Teeterboard, but also dotted with strong cello performances for more graceful acts.

While Amaluna does many things right, the story leaves something to be desired. Part of the problem is the pacing. Underneath the flips, twists and turns is supposedly a tale of Miranda, the daughter of a goddess on an island dominated by women, and her coming-of-age rite.

However, things get complicated when her rite is interrupted by a group of men, and their de facto leader, Romeo, after a storm leaves them shipwrecked on the island. Naturally, there's a romance that blossoms between Romeo and Miranda but it's hard to care for them and the obstacles their love must endure when you can watch a quartet of tight-wire walkers dance to a Spanish beat all while dangling above the stage. Factor in the 10 other acts that the story is stretched across and it's hard for your attention to not start waning.

Despite a story that falls a little flat, viewers of Amaluna should still find much to enjoy in the show's over-the-top performances and strong accompanying music. And for everyone else, there's always the clown humour.

Cirque du Soliel's Amaluna runs until Nov. 4 at The Blue and Yellow Big Top, at the Port Lands in Toronto. Tickets are currently on sale for Toronto and Vancouver shows and can be found at Amaluna's website.