Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo originally began as a big tent show in 2005 and ended about ten years later. It’s back as an arena show, and I was invited to see the performance in Portland.
Corteo is Italian for “cortege” or funeral procession, and the premise is exactly that. Mauro the Dreamer Clown begins with the dream (is it a dream?) that he has died, and the show is his joyous, surreal, and very acrobatic funeral. Angels and mortals interact, Mauro remembers his childhood but also learns how to fly.
Corteo’s set is innovative. The stage is a narrow shoebox with audience members viewing from the front and back (but not the sides.) Opaque sides allow performers room to change between acts, while a translucent, painted curtain rises and falls during parts of the show and never quite conceals the other side of the stadium. Audience members can not only see the performance, but they can also see the other half of the audience through the theater frame as if they were also performers. The result feels more intimate than other Cirque du Soleil shows while still delivering solid performances.
We see acrobats swinging from chandeliers, jugglers, ladder balancers, and a performer floating into the audience while suspended by balloons. There’s even a professional whistler (and his performance is incredible).
Is Corteo appropriate for children?
So long as your children are not scared of the theme—a fantasy funeral—it should be appropriate for all ages. The story isn’t completely clear about whether Mauro is dead or just dreaming he is dead, but in either case, he is not upset about his circumstances. I took my 17-year-old. I saw many younger children, and I did not see any tears.
In addition, the acrobatics and clown acts didn’t play up any adult themes, and most of the comedy was physical rather than verbal. There’s a 20-minute intermission, so there’s a built-in restroom break for the littles. (Hint: since there’s no seating on the sides, head past the first couple of restrooms and you’ll probably find one with no waiting.)
Corteo is playing in Portland until Sunday, March 17th and will be moving on to Nevada after that. You can check to see if it is coming to an arena near you. The show is touring in the US, Canada, and Europe.