Errisson Lawrence © 2015 Cirque du Soleil
The largest theatrical producer in the world, Cirque du Soleil returns to Sacramento, this time combining its daring avant-garde theatrics with the world of James Cameron’s Avatar in Toruk: The First Flight. Through December 4 the Golden 1 Center will be Pandora, the home of the Nav’i, the blue humanoid creatures of the wildly popular science fiction film.
But don’t expect this production to be a live action retelling of the film; Toruk is inspired by Cameron’s Avatar, with the word “inspired” being key. Rather, this production is a prequel to the movie, focusing on the quest of two “brothers of the heart” as they work to unify five clans to save Pandora from foretold destruction. In other words, watching Avatar is helpful for context, but not required viewing.
While wowing the crowd with the expected thrills of a Cirque du Soleil show, Toruk departs from the frivolity of the troupe’s previous productions – but in a good way. Instead of a string of vignettes, daring acrobatics are woven together with a narrator and a captivating coming-of-age sci-fi storyline.
However, the plot is truly best understood through the senses. Mesmerizing lighting and set design turn the Golden 1 Arena into a jaw-dropping living stage – rich silk fabrics adorn the rafters, bloom from the floor, and transform into convincing water and lava flows with the help of light projections. A lush jungle environment seamlessly transitions into an austere desert within seconds. Smoke and water vapor add to the realism of the changing climates.
Toruk’s brilliance however isn’t limited to its impressive staging. The cast’s talents shine as bright as the stars in the arena’s temporary cosmic universe. Aerial silk, tumbling, and puppetry are the physical highlights of the show (the balancing skeleton beam segment is not to be missed). Detailed costuming and the shaman’s haunting arias are also awe-inspiring.
And in this show, audience participation is strongly encouraged. The Toruk: The First Flight app allows spectators to control and contribute light effects during the show, particularly adding extra “star shine” to dramatic moments in the plot.
Experience the wonders of Pandora with Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk: The First Flight now through Sunday, December 4. For times and tickets, visit the event’s Sacramento365 page.
Note: There is a 20-minute intermission between the acts.