Review: Cirque du Soleil's long-running 'Saltimbanco' entwines spectacle, artistry and humor

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Cirque du Soleil shows are created to dazzle on so many levels, they can leave you breathless. The retiring "Saltimbanco" is no exception, although after 20 years it is set to hang up its spandex and leave the thrills to the company's other touring shows.

Set amid a sea of color and with live music throughout, "Saltimbanco" moves from soaring aerialists to otherworldy contortionists to playful clowns for 2 1/2 hours, including intermission.

The show is theatrical without telling a cohesive story, although there is the slight thread of a youngster growing up in a wonderland of eccentric characters and spellbinding circus acts.

The Chinese Poles routine in the first act is a slithering mass of human movement compared to the stillness and flexibility shown by Ariunsanaa Bataa and the "Hand to Hand" super-strength of Constantin Ciobotraru and Dan-Florin Taziauanu. Juggler Terry Vlasquez displayed uncanny coordination on a platform of transparent steps.

With few exceptions, there is something else going on besides the main event on stage. During "Boleadoras" -- balls on a string were twirled to percussive, flamenco-infused steps -- a still woman could be seen in the shadows behind them. When the act was over, she left. The colorful troupe members did their own things, but also were there as a support for acts with elements of danger.

Humorous characters among the colorful populace included clown Martin Pons, although to call him a clown sells him short. A storyteller as a mime and vocal sound-effects artist, he also put on a show with a particularly game member of the Petersen Events Center audience on Thursday that had laugh-out-loud moments.

The stage takes up about half of Petersen and the open stands were about half-filled on a rainy Thursday night, although floor seating was packed. "Saltimbanco" has come to Pittsburgh fast on the heels of Cirque's "Quidam," which was in the same venue in March, and to see both is to experience deja vu. Similarities at times outweighed the differences, but the feats of high level performance and athleticism were no less impressive.

Remaining "Cirque du Soleil: Saltimbanco" shows are 1 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $40-$95, $32-$76 for ages 2 to 12, $36-$85.50 for students/seniors/military (all plus fees) at ticketmaster.com or 1-800-745-3000.

theaterreviews

Sharon Eberson: seberson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1960.


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