Spiegelworld's Empire - Review

By: Alison Silveira

Spiegelworld has erected its world-renowned show, Empire, in Toronto much to the thrill and delight of theatregoers. Empire is not your average theatrical presentation; it's far more entertaining and unique. Much like the shows of Cirque du Soleil, Empire, directed by Terence O’Connell, features performers who contort themselves into pretzels, adds humour throughout the show and presents live music on stage. But, whereas Cirque du Soleil's grand spectacles are larger than life, Empire is intimate and the performances are intense. 

From the moment I set foot inside the small Spiegeltent, the mood was festive. Performers interacted with my guest and me by taking selfies, miming and flouncing about the audience to get to know us better. There's a throwback to a speak-easy style bar and the sultry lighting only heightens the intimacy. 

MCs Oscar and Fanny link the show by introducing us to the cast of wildly outrageous characters. Agile gymnasts showcase superb flexibility and strength by balancing on top of each other while a pair of roller skaters spin exhilaratingly fast. One wrong move and the act could be disastrous, but the performers are consummate professionals and certainly entertained breathless audience members. 

Let's not forget the dynamic duo themselves! Raunchy MCs Oscar and Fanny are a dysfunctional couple, who gives sexually charged performances and thrill an unsuspecting audience member in an unforgettably humorous way. Their comedic timing is on point, as is their ability to improvise. Tessa Alves, a native of Brampton is the sultry chanteuse that propels the show along with her powerhouse vocals and strong stage presence. Even though Empire lacks a cohesive narrative, the show is entertaining and had me guessing what shock and awe inspiring act I could anticipate next. 

Part circus, cabaret, variety, slapstick and burlesque show, Empire encompasses a new kind of theatrical experience for audience members who seem to have seen it all. 

Empire is playing under the Spiegeltent at 318 Queen's Quay West until November 8, 2015. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: spiegelworld.ca.

Photos courtesy of Empire. 

 

Arrabal - Toronto - Theatre Review

Arrabal - Toronto - Theatre Review

Earlier this month, Arrabal had its world premier at the Panasonic Theatre. Mystery and romance follow Arrabal, the coming of age heroine, in Buenos Aires' underground tango clubs. On a quest to find the truth about what happened to her father many years ago during Argentina's political upheaval in the 1970s, Arrabal learns the lurid details of her father's shocking murder. Through her journey, she meets seedy characters and loses her innocence while trying to fit in.

The story of Arrabal is told entirely through dance and the enthralling music of Gustavo Santaolalla and his band, Bajofondo. The use of striking images of Argentina's political violence is very powerful. A visually arresting image of some of the 30, 000 dissidents who were murdered or missing during the military regime is quite a sobering sight. Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys and Memphis) and Julio Zurita, the show features talented performers in dynamic and complex routines. Explosive combative sequences are brilliantly choreographed and danced with high energy. Each one of the dancers oozes sensuality as they cavort through the stage dancing the intense and fervent tango. Arrabal's father, Rodolfo (Julio Zurita), visits her in a dream and they dance a beautiful and ethereal number together.

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