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The water portions of Luzia are stunners.
The water portions of Luzia are stunners.
Photo by Matt Beard

Cirque's Luzia May Be Their Best Touring Dream to Date

There are certain things you expect when purchasing a ticket to a Cirque du Soleil performance, unspoken guarantees of what you’ll see before your eyes. You know there will be a clown character of some sort. You know you’ll watch humans made of the same flesh and bone as yourself do physical stunts you care barely comprehend, let alone replicate.

The music will be catchy enough to stick in your brain on the drive home but hard to remember when you wake up in the morning. The real difference in Cirque from show to show comes in the theming, and even then many shows have the clumsiest of frameworks for why you’re watching the series of physical acts taking place.

With Luzia, Cirque promises a waking dream of Mexico, and when it comes to excuses for Cirque to do what it does best, this theme works out pretty well. I’m not sure how it’ll play out in other parts of the country, but Houston audiences, thanks to geographic proximity and population demographics, should feel right at home with the iconography of the show. There are luchadoresand soccer players, skulls and candles, and the music features plenty of distinctly Mexican sounds (or at least what the music of Mexico sounds like through the lens of pop culture).

But it also has a distinctly Mexican spirit in how the crowd and performers interact, the show at times feeling more like a soccer match where everyone is rooting for the people on stage than a stage production where everyone claps when an act is finished. The performers did such a great job getting the crowd invested in the performance that audience members were cheering for a juggling performance in the year 2019. It’s the first Cirque show I’ve seen that felt like the company was really leaning into the fact that people not only want to be amazed but that they want to express that amazement.

Expect some top notch production in this show.
Expect some top notch production in this show.
Photo by Matt Beard

Luzia is the rare Cirque show that doesn’t feel like it has any dead weight. A bit featuring a contortionist feels somewhat out of place — though it is impressive to be sure — and the puppetry animal stuff feels like it should be in something more Japanese-influenced (kuroko is the first thing that comes to mind when the thinking about the puppets), but in broad strokes, everything works in harmony.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the first half of Luzia is among the best-produced halves of any Cirque production. A bit involving dancers on giant hoops and one doing tricks in the air has a twist in it that is stunning. The pre-intermission climax is better than the one at the end of the show. It even features a rare great bit that is anchored around a piece of tech-forward production instead of humans doing bold moves with their bodies. I find it hard to imagine seeing a Cirque performance I enjoyed as much as the first hour of Luzia.

There is one other guarantee that comes with a Cirque production, and if you know anything about the company, it’s either been lingering in the back of your brain since I brought up the concept earlier or you knew it was missing instinctively: Cirque productions, in terms of the performers, are always a multicultural experience. How refreshing it is, at a time when people are literally in danger of losing their homes because the fear of brown people has shut down the government, to see a show where people from around the globe have come together in their own unique ways to celebrate the country at our southern border. What a dream it would be if everyone was more interested in embracing our neighbors rather than what’s going on in the world today.

Cirque du Soleil's Luzia continues through February 24 at Sam Houston Race Park, 7575 North Sam Houston Parkway West. For information call 1-877-924-7783 or visit cirquedusoleil.com/luzia, $45 to $245.

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