Spectacular circus arts meet vintage-style song-and-dance in Cirque du Soleil’s premiere Broadway musical, Paramour, now playing at the Lyric Theatre. Known for its consummately graceful and death-defying acrobatics, the internationally acclaimed Canadian-based company traditionally performs in big tops and arenas around the world. But this latest venture, for which Jean-François Bouchard is credited as Creative Guide and Creative Director, gives audiences the opportunity to experience Cirque’s signature thrills in a grand theater space, within the format of an old-time musical love story with lavish sets and dazzling costumes inspired by movie classics from The Golden Age of Hollywood.
Directed by Philippe Decouflé, with a score by Bob and Bill (Guy Dubuc and Marc Lessard) and lyrics by Co-Composer Andreas Carlsson, Paramour’s premise is the familiar tale of a beautiful young actress torn between love and stardom. Will she marry the egomaniacal producer who launched her meteoric rise to success, in order to retain the wealth, fame, and excitement he offers, or will she forgo it all for a less glamorous life with the songwriting piano player who adores her? Though the show’s book and songs are hardly revolutionary, they are not meant to be, but are intended to revisit a bygone era of Tinseltown. And they do, despite a few glaring anachronisms in a sequence that recreates a series of famous movie posters, some of which postdate the 1930s—most notably, the 1963 version of Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor.
An epic 38-member cast of professional actors, dancers, and acrobats, a majestic Art Deco-style design, with sets by Jean Rabasse and costumes by Philippe Guillotel, and lively choreography by Daphné Mauger, all succeed in evoking the mood, look, and genres of the period (even the title Paramour is suggestive of Paramount Pictures, one of LA’s earliest major studios). Lead actors Jeremy Kushnier as producer A.J. Golden (proclaimed in song as “The Hollywood Wiz”), Ruby Lewis as his conflicted star Indigo James (who always wanted “Something More”), and Ryan Vona as her true love Joey Green (who suffers from a “Writer’s Block”), deliver the recognizable personalities of the standard show biz archetypes and belt out their tunes with impressive chops and heartfelt emotion, to the sounds of a live band led by Music Director Seth Stachowski.
Integrated into the scenes, from awards presentations, press conferences, and movie shoots to a high-energy speakeasy, a haunting dream, and a backstage dressing room (where the young couple pulls off the old switcheroo to elude A.J.), are the breathtaking feats of Cirque du Soleil’s incomparable troupe. Designed by Shana Carroll and Boris Verkhovsky, the daredevil acrobatics include exquisitely beautiful soaring aerials by twins Andrew and Kevin Atherton, who perform before Cleopatra and her court; a heart-stopping teeterboard segment for A.J.’s increasingly demanding shoot of the western Calamity Jane; the “Love Triangle” trapeze sequence, in which Cirque artists Samuel William Charlton, Myriam Deraiche, and Martin Charrat reenact the romantic dilemma of Indigo, pulled between the high-flying A.J. and the down-to-earth Joey; and the grand finale chase on the rooftops of Manhattan before the city skyline, as the ensemble bounces, flips, and tumbles on hidden trampolines.
Paramour also incorporates the latest cutting-edge technology, with flying lampshade drones and astonishing projections of magical shadows, live feed, film footage, and videos, which bring an updated 21st-century aesthetic to the otherwise historicizing show. Like the blocking of the acrobatics and the movements of the actors, the projection screens are not limited to the stage, but surround and envelop the audience, adding to the amusement and adrenaline.
While Broadway purists might find the book, music, and lyrics somewhat lacking in originality, nostalgia buffs will delight in their references to the Silver Screen and enjoy the evocation of a past era in entertainment, and Cirque du Soleil fans will surely love the experimental blend, enhanced spectacle, and outright fun that is Paramour.
Running Time: Two and 15 minutes, plus an intermission.