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"Saltimbanco" shines at Mullins Center through Sept. 7

By Debbie Gardner
PRIME Editor

AMHERST Cirque du Soleil brought its high-energy style of entertainment to
town last night with the opening of the company's arena show, Saltimbanco,
at the Mullins Center at UMass Amherst.
And, from the well-schooled eye of someone who has had the privilege to
view and review four different Cirque shows in the past five years La
Nouba at Walt Disney World, Varikai in Hartford in 2005, Kooza this past
April, also in Hartford, and now Saltimbanco -- I can say without
reservations that this show does not disappoint.
From the traditional character-audience clowning that opened the show to
the rapid-fire bungee aerial act that closed the performance, Saltimbanco
was two hours and ten minutes of thrills, skill and uproarious laughter.
I took my eight-year-old son Evan, a budding gymnast, with me to
Saltimbanco, and it was interesting to see the performance through fresh,
younger eyes.
To him, the best parts were not necessarily the feats of strength and
level of gymnastics skills demonstrated by many of the performers, but the
more traditional circus-style acts that punctuate this show. (Though he did
think the artist who spiral-climbed the Chinese pole using just his arms was
Evan laughed repeatedly -- as we all did -- at the pantomime antics of
Amo Gulinello's clowning. He wished aloud that his friend, Trevor, was with
us to witness the skills of bicyclist Ivan Do Duc. He repeatedly said,
"wow" as artist Terry Velasquez added ball after ball to his juggling
routine. And he pantomimed the spinning bolas and rhythmic drumming
performed by artists Luis Lopez and Adriana Pegueroles as we exited the
arena at intermission.
As always my husband, John, was most impressed by the music, always his
favorite part of a Cirque performance. He said it was nice to have the band
visible on the stage this time, not hidden away behind a screen or suspended
in the air on a platform. He also commented that the music had more of a
rock edge, with several numbers reminiscent of Pink Floyd.
Oh, and he thought the duo trapeze work of artists Ruslana and Taisiya
Bazalii -- done without a net and with only thin wires as safety devices
was incredible.
As for me, I just drink in the spectacle of sights and sounds, color and
movement, that is Cirque du Soleil. Yes, there is an underlying story -- that
of the multicultural mix of city life as seen through the eyes of a cast of
characters that frames the acts of Saltimbanco (which by the way, comes
from the Italian saltare in banco . literally to "jump on a bench"), but as
with any Cirque performance, you don't need to follow the plot to enjoy the
Saltimbanco will be in residence at the Mullins Center through Sept. 7
with nightly performances at 7:30 p.m., Fri. and Sat. matinees at 3 p.m.,
and Sunday performances at 1 and 5 p.m. Adult tickets are $41, $61, $71 and
$91; children under 12 are $33, $49, $57 and $73. UMass students, faculty
and staff tickets -- available at the box office with ID -- are prices at
$31,41,71, $91.
For tickets and more information call the box office at 413-733-2500 or
visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.