Somehow my wife and I have missed out on seeing a Cirque du Soleil performance in our sixty-something years. Last night we remedied this hole in our life experience by driving up to Portland in an unseasonably cold rain to see Kooza.
After deciding to make this an early birthday present for Laurel, I had to decide whether to fork out $250 ($125 each) for the Tapis Rouge option. Browsing some Cirque du Soleil reviews, I saw that that some people loved it. Others thought it was a waste of money.
Our conclusion: loved it!
An emotional reaction which, I'll have to admit, came easier to me knowing that we didn't pay anything for Tapis Rouge. The reason owed to my originally buying Tapis Rouge-enhanced tickets for the 4 pm performance yesterday.
A few weeks after I ordered them, I got a phone call from an exceedingly pleasant and competent Cirque du Soleil employee who had an admirably appropriate French accent. I felt like I was talking with the maitre d' at a high class restaurant.
He apologized for the inconvenience, regretting that he needed to inform me that not enough people had signed up for Tapis Rouge at Friday's 4 pm performance, so it wouldn't be available.
However, he would be pleased to cancel our order and give us tickets to the 8 pm show with Tapis Rouge thrown in at no cost. Would this be acceptable? Absolutely, I told him. Getting back to Salem at midnight was worth $250, for sure. This was a classy move by a guy who works for a classy outfit.
I say this because we weren't disappointed by any aspect of our Cirque du Soleil experience -- and neither Laurel or I are shy about complaining. From picking up our Tapis Rouge'd tickets at Will Call, which earned us free close-in parking, to zipping out of the crowded parking lot much more quickly than we expected, we give Portland's Kooza four thumbs up.
A small band of Tapis Rouge'ians had a shorter wait outside of our special tent. Promptly at seven we entered the VIP world behind the blue curtain. After getting an ID tag on a ribbon to wear around our neck that distinguished us from the common folks, a glass of champagne was proffered -- which I happily accepted. Along with an offer from a woman to take a photo of Laurel and me, which we picked up at intermission.
After that we enjoyed the other eats and drinks. All complimentary, of course, using "complimentary" in the sense of pay $125 then everything is free. The vegetarian food offerings were limited, but tasty. We had no problem filling our plates with fruit, melted cheese/mushroom toasted bread, and other appealing animal-free snacks.
The Tapis Rouge tent has its own shopping area, naturally. Laurel was attracted to a few classy clothing items, until she looked at the prices. I got a two-CD set of "Solarium Delirium" for a reasonable $15, music inspired by the Cirque du Soleil repertoire. (I listened to some of it today: nice in the European techno/world beat style that I like.)
We headed to our seats about 7:45. I won't attempt to describe Kooza, which is pretty much indescribable. Some people have done their best on Yelp, so you can check out their reviews. (A 2008 Kooza show in San Jose has more reviews, as does a 2009 show in San Francisco.)
I found it deeply moving. And that wasn't just the champagne talking. Kooza shows how human artistry, creativity, and athleticism can be expressed at a very high level -- often literally, as with the tight-rope performers and Wheel of Death (a.k.a. "gerbil wheel") guys.
Watching the show, I had a strong urge to dress up in a crazy looking outfit and do something dangerously artistic. Unfortunately, no ideas came to mind, which explains why I was sitting in the audience and not standing on stage.
At intermission we strutted by the hoi polloi waiting in long lines for their cokes and bags of popcorn, flashed our badges, and returned to the good life in the Tapis Rouge tent. I was poured a glass of red wine, then filled a plate with various sweets. Laurel said, "I could get used to this."
Naturally Tapis Rouge'ians have their own restrooms, albeit high-end porta-potties. Reading reviews of shows in other towns, long restroom lines at intermission was a complaint of quite a few women, so this is another plus of going the VIP route if you can afford it.
The reviews I read left me with a few questions that do nothing to temper my enjoyment of my show, but still have me wondering...
Are the people picked from the audience to take part in an act actually chosen randomly? There's theorizing that these are plants, as some people claim to have seen the same audience members on stage at different shows.
When a mistake is made -- a tightrope walker slipped attempting a trick, grabbed the wire with his hands, made his way back up, and then retried the trick successfully -- is this part of the show? As above, some people have seen the same oops occur at the same point in an act repeatedly.
Well, my feeling is that I went to Kooza to be amazed. Also...fooled, in a sense. The show projects a fantasy world marvelously effectively. If there are some fantasies within the fantasy that I couldn't recognize, more power to the Kooza creators.
We'll be back next time Cirque du Soleil comes to Portland. And likely in the Tapis Rouge tent again. A few times a year it's fun to irrationally splurge.
(Though if you add up the value of Tapis Rouge benefits -- parking, wine, food, dessert, souvenir photo, no bathroom lines -- the cost approaches the sphere of rationality.)