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Arts and Entertainment

Not in Canada Anymore, Toto: Cirque du Soleil at Long Beach Convention Center

Mark Ward as John, the Ring Master of Cirque du Soleil's 'Quidam.' Photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.
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Famous for high production value and seductive charm, Cirque du Soleil's Quidam is currently playing at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. The show follows Zoe, a young, unhappy girl that runs away to an imaginary town of eccentrics where all of the residents, coincidentally, just so happen to have circus skills. For cynical grown-ups, Quidam is what would happen if Yanni and Tim Burton drank too much and then puked up a circus (which sounds kind of awesome, actually), but this is one show far more suitable and appropriate for the entertainment tastes of children.

The entire troupe is a cast of talented, charismatic, athletic eye-candy, but there are several especially notable performance highlights in the Long Beach Quidam cast: Mengyi Wang, Shengnan Pan, Yaxuan Xu, and Lou Zhou stand out as one of the more intriguing acts as they dexterously contort to perform impressive and complex juggling tricks with vintage with diabolos (a set of sticks linked by a string that is used to propell a large spool into the air). The most dangerous and arresting act of the evening is the show's award-winning, propless banguine act where 15 acrobats build tall human body structures while literally throwing troupe members Anastasia Christyakova and Ekaterina Evdokimova across the stage to land delicately on top of large vertical human stacks. Circus clown Toto Castineiras quickly becomes the crowd favorite through his hilarious, sophisticated, and inventive vaudevillian physical comedy and audience participation skits. Finally, Quidam employs only live music with an adept, twinkling, gypsy influenced band led by Jim Bevan that is good enough in their own right to perform a solo show sans circus stunts.

Granted there isn't a single child on the planet that would notice or care, and despite Quidam's many strong points such as great attention to detail and imaginative scenarios, some of the circus appears to be bad mimicry of truly artful expression though excessive randomness that lacks thoughful sophistication. Part of the performance problem stems from the use of a convention center arena setting venue that lacks the sort of all-absorbing intimacy that would make being surrounded by silliness seem magical rather than ridiculous. At times the circus fails to maintain the organic aesthetic sentiments of its Momix roots as they try a bit too hard to convey passion.

Cirque du Soleil's Quidam is playing through April 24 at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center before moving on to Citizens Bank Arena from April 27 to May 1. The Long Beach Convention Center is located at 300 E. Ocean Boulevard, Long Beach, CA 90802. Citizens Bank Arena is located at 4000 East Ontario Center Parkway, Ontario, CA 91764. Tickets for these shows can be obtained online through Cirque du Soleil or via phone at 800-745-3000.