The Circus Comes to Broadway ; Cirque Du Soleil Plans a Long-Running Show of Music and Acrobatics

By Paulson, Michael | International New York Times, August 21, 2015 | Go to article overview

The Circus Comes to Broadway ; Cirque Du Soleil Plans a Long-Running Show of Music and Acrobatics


Paulson, Michael, International New York Times


The Canadian circus behemoth is planning to take over the Lyric Theater for a long-running production that combines musical theater and acrobatics.

Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian circus behemoth that has wowed audiences around the world but has struggled to establish a steady foothold in New York, is planning to take over a Broadway stage for a long-running production that combines musical theater and acrobatics.

The company, which was acquired this spring by a group of private equity investors, said the production, to be called "Paramour," represented one step in a broader effort to expand its presence in New York and in the world of theater. Cirque plans to spend $25 million to mount the show at the Lyric Theater, one of the largest Broadway houses, and said it would run indefinitely after opening in the spring.

The company is also working with NBC on a televised production of "The Wiz," which is aiming for Broadway for the 2016-17 season, and is planning to bring one of its traveling big-tent shows, "Kurios," to New York late next year.

Cirque, which is also hoping to expand considerably in China, is eager to strengthen its operations in New York, where a theatrical show called "Banana Shpeel" flopped in 2010, where a circus show called "Zarkana" had a shorter run than planned and where real estate constraints have long frustrated the company's ambitions. The company opened a New York office last year with the goal of producing fully-branded shows, as well as productions in which Cirque-style acrobatics are used to amplify existing titles (hence "The Wiz") and even some shows that are simply of interest to the company but do not involve traditional Cirque elements.

Cirque is a huge global entertainment operation -- it has 18 shows running (nine of them touring); employs 1,300 artists (from scores of countries); and sold 11 million tickets last year, with revenues of $855 million. The troupe says that over the past 31 years it has played to more than 150 million spectators, in venues ranging from theaters to big-top tents to large arenas.

Its president and chief executive, Daniel Lamarre, called New York "almost an untapped market for us, with a huge potential," saying that Cirque du Soleil had focused on its growth in Las Vegas, where it has eight shows running, and "didn't spend enough time in your market."

"It's a new era for Cirque du Soleil in New York, and we look to this adventure with a lot of modesty," he said.

Mr. Lamarre said the company had learned from the failure of "Banana Shpeel" that audiences expect acrobatic spectacle from a Cirque-branded show. But he said the company had also increased its expertise in high-definition projections and more sophisticated scenery, costumes, makeup and dance as a result of recent successes, including "Michael Jackson One" in Las Vegas and "Kurios. …

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