‘Wow! Wow! Wow!’ This and the fact that I couldn’t close my mouth even if I wanted to were the two constant reactions to every single acts in TOTEM, Cirque Du Soleil’s brand new show which is now on Singapore’s shores. Judging from the thunderous claps reverberating all around the Grand Chapiteau (the iconic Blue and Yellow Big Top), I can safely say, I’m not alone.
After all, this is the world’s most famous circus and the largest theatrical producer in the world. Based in Montreal Canada, Cirque Du Soleil (or ‘Circus under the Sun’ in French) has certainly come a long way from its humble past in 1982. Today, Cirque Du Soleil is a multi-award winning world class circus with over 5000 employees (including 1200 artistes from 40 different countries). Its performances break the conventions of a traditional circus by blending jaw-dropping acts with original live music, extravagant costumes and dazzling stage effects. There are no animals featured. Cirque du Soleil delivers show after show, city after city, through pure teamwork, precision, human talent and a whole lot of finesse. It is no wonder that they have wowed more than 100 million audiences from over 300 cities and counting.
I watched my first Cirque Du Soleil about 20 years ago as an undergrad in Melbourne and was so enthralled by their performance then that I vowed to bring my own children (if I were to have) to experience it if given the chance. That dream became a reality when I stepped into Cirque’s Big Top again on Wednesday night, this time holding my wife’s and daughter’s hands.
THESE ARE THE REASONS WHY FAMILIES SHOULD NOT MISS TOTEM:
Costumes, Make-up and Staging
The dazzling, fanciful, vibrant costumes paired with the sophisticated make-up is sensational. The inspiration for TOTEM’s costume designs was rooted in documentary-based reality, involving research into real animals, plants and birds as well as traditional cultural and tribal designs. Every performer’s costume, mask and hat are uniquely different yet in diversity, there is beauty and uniformity. Bring along a binoculars to admire the details up close!
The stage is truly a sight to behold with an exoskeleton tortoise shell-like structure (representing a turtle carrying the weight in its of the earth) in the middle of the stage. The visual environment of TOTEM is an organic world, a marsh lined with reeds near an island (the stage), on which images are projected. Through the magic of moving images, the stage becomes a virtual swamp, a river source, a marsh, a lake, an ocean, a volcanic island, a pond and a starry sky. Impressive! You have to see it to believe it.
The music of TOTEM is phenomenal. Indigenous influences and vocal rhythms are weaved together blending native music and ethnic instruments from around the world, ranging from North America’s First Nations, Spanish flamenco, to the sounds of the Indian subcontinent. Every piece is originally scored, performed and sung live. This adds a auditory dimension to the audience’s experience as the ethereal poly-rhythmic score transports us to the mystical world of TOTEM. Pan flutes, tribal drums and those soulful singing….simply sublime!
In fact, during one of the acts (Manipulation), performers were using alternative percussion instruments such as beakers and test-tubes. This troupe is truly multi-talented!
Their reputation precedes them. However there’s nothing like watching Cirque du Soleil wow us with their gravity defying, mind boggling displays in person. Each act outshines the former: Just when you think the current act is so unbelievably astounding, the next one pushes the limits even more, drawing even louder spontaneous gasps from us audience.
In total, TOTEM delivered 12 visually stunning acts, ranging from Unicycles & Bowls, Trapeze, Foot Juggling, Hoops Dancer, Tandem Roller Skates but it is evident that the crowd favorite is the closing act, Russian Bars. The short comical acts added in for comic relief were equally entertaining (e.g. playing a tune with Ping-Pong balls bouncing off metal pots strapped to the performer’s shoulders and knees). These guys are relentless in pushing the boundaries of our imagination with their flawless skills and talents.
Stoke and Fuel
Circus acts sits high up on the lists of things that stir the imagination of children and all who are young at heart. From literature to entertainment, circuses elicit a sense of excitement that no other live entertainment can achieve. There’s also something magical about walking into a huge circus tent – akin to walking into a world where childhood dreams and fantasies come alive! I am so glad I get to bring my family to experience this.
While there are Cirque Du Soleil performances being recorded and sold on DVDs, nothing can replace the euphoria of watching it LIVE together with hundreds others, – cheering, clapping, together fueling the energy of being part of the circus experience. It’s simply unforgettable, to say the least!
Seize the Day!
In Singapore, we are blessed to be able to have many world-class acts, performances and events on our shore but to watch the iconic Cirque Du Soleil is icing on top of the cake. A wonderful chance to create a timeless memory which can last a long time or even shared with the next generation.
TOTEM is centered loosely around the story of man’s evolution based on Native American myths. It illustrates, through a visual and acrobatic language, the progress of human species, from its original amphibian state to its ultimate desire to fly. The characters evolve on a stage around a giant turtle, the symbol of origin for many ancient civilizations. Somewhere between science and legend, TOTEM explores the ties that bind Man to other species, his dreams and his infinite potential.
But don’t try following the story too closely. Rather, let the acts and music mesmerize you and be prepared to be dazzled.
Dave’s Survival Tips:
Here are some tips to make your experience more exceptional:
Parking and Getting There: The Big Top is set up right next to the South Car-park of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) . We parked at the open air ‘Wilson’ car park right next to it. On opening night, there were still lots at around 6:30pm but it would be filled up real fast closer to 7pm.
Brolly and Jackets: Wherever you park, however you arrive, you will have to walk outdoors to get to the Big Top. Bring a brolly along if the skies look threatening.
The Big Top is air-conditioned. During the evening performances, especially if you are seated near the air-con vent, you may want to bring a jacket as it gets a bit chilly.
Free Shuttle Buggy: MBS has just recently introduced a free car parking shuttle between the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC) to MBS. These run during peak lunch times (12-2pm) and dinner times (5-7pm). You can want to utilize this service if you arrive early.
Dinner: We suggest parking there early and going for a pre-show dinner as part of the entire experience. There are affordable eateries at the South side of MBS near the Big Top. These include Nanyang Café , TCC and more. Try to allocate at least 1 hour for the meal.
Watch the Poles: The performances are exceptional both near and far. In fact, by seating a bit further up, one can take in the breadth of the show while seating up close, one can see the expression of the performers. However, do note that certain seats have restricted views (blocked partially by the large poles that support the tentage). Do refer to the SISTIC seating map carefully so your experience will not be compromised.
Toilets: There are make-shift toilets near the Big Top and they do draw a crowd during the interval. If you are after comfort, then we suggest using the toilets at MBS before the performance starts.
TOTEM has been spectacular. Here’s wishing all a magical time at Cirque Du Soleil!
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL – TOTEM
Show Dates: Wednesday, 28 Oct to Sunday, 6 Dec 2015.
Show Times: Tuesdays to Fridays: 8pm
Tuesday (10 Nov) and Saturdays: 4.30pm & 8pm
Sundays: 1.30pm & 5pm
No show on Mondays.
Venue: Under the Big Top, next to Marina Bay Sands
Tickets priced from SGD98 are available from Sistic Website, call +65 6348 5555 or visit TOTEM Box Office on site at the Big Top on Bayfront Avenue, beside Marina Bay Sands.
Do hop over to our friends’ blogs to read their reviews of TOTEM:
Disclaimer: We were invited to the Totem Premiere for the purposes of this review. All photos are copyright to Cirque du Soleil unless otherwise stated.