photo: Kristie Kahns
Most of the acts in the latest Cirque du Soleil show are of the same variety and of the same jaw-dropping, viscerally exciting quality you expect from the brand: a trio of Asian contortionists, a hold-your-breath thrilling Russian male acrobat who seems to walk sideways around a pole, a juggler who spins carpets on her legs, hands and head simultaneously. But the show's unfortunate, vaudeville-themed framing story adds a lot of head-scratchingly unfunny business to the mix and keeps grinding the show to a full halt. The conceit - that our Master of Ceremonies holds a talent contest using three talentless audience members (read: obvious plants) who infiltrate the show rather than return to their seats as they're told - isn't at all developed: it's all set-up and no punchline. The only practical use of the vaudeville setting is that it allows an excuse for tap dancing but those numbers, which haven't been choreographed to build, are among the show's weakest. There is some Cirque du Soleil magic here, but it's diminished by way too much that's beside the point.