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Notes from the Big Top: Cirque du Soleil’s VOLTA


Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Patrice Lamoureux)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Benoit Z. Leroux)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Michael Kass)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Michael Kass)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Patrice Lamoureux)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Patrice Lamoureux)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Patrice Lamoureux)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Saskia Potter)Cirque du Soleil, VOLTA (photo by Matt Beard)

One of the more unconventional things about the Cirque du Soleil empire is that while they are always striving for novelty in their concepts, they are not merely rushing toward the bigger and flashier. Perennially story-driven, always unpredictable, some of their productions are cosmic barn-burners, some are feats of quieter wonder, and even outright experimentation. On ice, on horseback, on ladders, trampolines, roller skates, aerial rigs, climbing nets, bikes, and stripper poles, the company is more than just a collection of modernized, muscular circus tropes (though it is that too at times, with gusto).

The aesthetic variety they achieve among shows gives each one a distinct personality, which is part of what made them so revolutionary in their field. But it also means not everyone is equally in love with every show. People will have their favorites among a vast array of experiences. But every one of the shows has a story to tell, through an original musical score, insane costumes, brilliant and flirty comic relief, schematic props, and a big finale — and the new L.A. production of VOLTA in the Big Top up at Dodger Stadium does too. So whose favorite will this one be?

Part Burning Man, part 80’s hair band, part X Games after-party, with a bit of Kafka, more than a little Xanadu, some Rent, and an aura of Hair but without the politics, VOLTA offers an archetypal coming of age story, in which a talented but lonely young man is helped from his cocoon of insecurity by a magical wild woman (on roller skates), and together they break free of the greyed-out Muggle world and find their bliss by essentially running away to join the circus. It’s very meta.

With a madcap score that blends/alternates amped-up EDM with siren-song abstract vocals and violin, and a Broadway-style emcee pop king narrator composed and orchestrated by Anthony Gonzalez (of M83), and off the charts exuberant costumes designed by Emmy Award-winner Zaldy Goco (Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, RuPaul’s Drag Race), VOLTA is not everybody’s cup of mushroom tea — but it’s perhaps the most L.A.-flavored one so far. And based on the universal leap to standing ovations opening night, and the beaming smiles of culturally savvy guests like Laurence Fishburne, Tiffany Hadish, and Common — it’s going to be a lot of people’s favorite.

Performances through March 8, downtown. Tickets start at $60. cirquedusoleil.com/volta