Monday, July 2, 2007

Shanghai Surprise

Theatre Review:

Cirque Shanghai: Bai Xi

Executive Produced by
Michael Wilson, ISA & Haiping Ge

Creative Collaboration by
John Steenhoven

Directed by Andrew Park

Pepsi Skyline Stage at Navy Pier

"Bsi Xi" is Chinese for "100 stunning acts." I didn't keep count, but they certainly are in the high end. I wasn't sure what to expect beyond my limited experience of Chinese acrobatics on TV variety shows and talk shows. I wasn't sure how they were going to sustain such high energy entertainment over a full show. Pleased to report that they do.

There are death-defying aerial stunts, but just as jaw-dropping and nail-biting is watching someone on a tall unicycle trying to flip a spoon from their toes into a cup on the top of their head. And I never thought plate-spinning could be so mesmerising.

What's refreshingly different about this Cirque versus that other more famous Cirque is that they wear their themes lightly. This really is about the physical dexterity and daring stunts. There's even some live music and magic, but the main thrust of this show is, really, just showing us what really cool things they can do.

The show runs an hour and a half, which is just right. The seats at the Skyline stage are a torturous hard plastic. Any longer, and I would have given in and confessed to my Falun Gong infractions. I recommend getting a seat in the middle of the house to near the front. We were eight rows back. Any closer, and it would have been difficult to enjoy some of the overhead stuff. At the end of the show, exit house left to meet some of the cast.

If there's a fault to the show, there's no host to set a context for the evening or to even tell us we can meet the cast. We just happened to stumble upon the area. The other is that the music was too loud at points, the pre-recorded soundtrack almost drowning out the two live musicians on stage.

But definitely go see this. It's only here through September 3rd.
Apparently, this is part of a cultural exchange where we have also sent shows to China. Wondering what brilliant American talent we sent them? Pole strippers and a guy who can belch the alphabet? Nope. Close. A Harlem Globetrotters rip off called America's Harlem Wizards. We win.