When is a musical not a musical? Or maybe I should ask, when is a circus not a circus? Either way, the answer is Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour, a magical-feeling Broadway musical that combines an old-fashioned love story with adrenaline-pumping, fast-flying Cirque acts. My family, which ranged in age from tween to early seventies, were guests at a recent performance and we loved this totally unique, fast-paced, creative show.
Paramour fabulously channels the feeling of the gorgeous Art Deco Lyric Theater that it calls home. The musical is set in the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s and the plot centers around three characters caught in a love triangle: There’s the fast-talking film director AJ Golden who needs to make a hit movie; Indigo, the ingenue he discovers singing in a club and falls in love with; and Joey, Indigo’s composer/pianist best friend who is also in love with her.
This is classic love-triangle stuff, and could be the story-line in and of itself. But, as Aidan, my 12-year-old theater-loving son pointed out, this isn’t any musical, it’s a “Cirque du Soleil Broadway Musical!” Indeed.
AJ, who first appears in a top hat and red tails looks every part the circus MC in the opening act, and around him is a cast of 22 acrobats who appear alongside 16 actors — so there’s always something going on, whether fast tumbling, stunning aerial displays, soaring flips, or even a ballet-like trapeze act. Not to mention juggling, flipping, and even some clowning.
But wait there’s more! The production also uses digital projections and multimedia on several screens to great effect, especially during one number where Indigo acts out Hollywood’s greatest movies posters from the golden era (think: King Kong, Cleopatra, Some Like it Hot) against a green screen while a live camera films her and projects the amazing reproductions up on the screen — all why a lively ode to Hollywood is going on. The tween was especially impressed with this multi-media touch.
My family loved the parts of the show where the story-line and the circus-acts fused, especially the two aerialists who fly out and over the audience during the Cleopatra number and the three ethereal acrobats who act out the love triangle of AJ, Indigo, and Joey by leaping, falling, and swinging from a single trapeze — it was truly mesmerizing. I also loved the start of the story, which takes place in a Moulin Rouge-ish cabaret, with singing, dancing, and acrobatics all taking place concurrently, and the NYC chase scene that involved amazing leaps and flips from platforms seemingly too high to jump from.
In addition to all the amazing action up on stage, the Lyric Theater deserves a few lines of praise: it’s been completely renovated and is now one of the most comfortable theaters on Broadway with plenty of legroom in the seats (yay!). There’s a vintage-style candy shop “Darlings” in the lobby with treats ranging from ice cream to saltwater taffy to premium chocolates to wine and snack boxes, all at more reasonable prices than I’ve encountered in the theater in a while ($5 for an ice cream counts for cheap on 42nd Street). Best of all, there’s seat service in many sections of the theater. Wave down a waiter and you can order before the curtain or during intermission — then your treats (including wine and beer if you’re so interested) are delivered right to your seat. My mom and son and I went for the ice cream — how could we not!
Although this is billed as an all-ages show, I’d say Paramour is best for kids 7 and up who can follow the story line of the musical, otherwise they may become restless during the middle of the first act which spends 20 minutes or so setting up the story line (full-disclosure, my husband, who doesn’t love musicals, was a little restless during that part, but he happily rallied as soon as the pace picked up and the circus performers joined in the action for the rest of the show).
Paramour is a great entry to Broadway for young theater goers, a treat for everyone who loves musicals, and a revelation for anyone who didn’t know a circus could also be a love story. Go see it if you can!
PARAMOUR, A Cirque du Soleil Musical
Lyric Theater, 213 W 42nd Street, NY NY
Running time: 2:15, including a 15 minute intermission