Cirque du Soleil is to Las Vegas as, say, the Tour d'Effil is to Paris. Cirque shows have helped define the city since December 25, 1993, when Mystére took up permanent residence at Treasure Island. Today, Cirque shows play to about 9,000 people each night here. The latest Cirque entry is Zarkana and it is, indeed, a welcome addition to the city.
If asked to describe the show in one word, my choice would be "dazzling." It's plain beautiful to watch. The cast is gifted and they perform all the expected acrobatics, and more, that one has come to expect at a Cirque show.
There's a lot of talking and singing but, for the most part, it's in the nonsense, unrecognizable patois of Cirque's made-up, slightly French-sounding language. The company dumped the original English language score when it played Radio City Music Hall after runs in Moscow and Madrid.
Comparisons may be odious but Zarkana is heaps better than the only Cirque du Soleil failure to play Las Vegas, the ill-conceived Viva Elvis a tribute to The King that didn't come close to the company's tributes to either the Beatles (the must-see Love) or Michael Jackson. No one, in fact, was too sad when Elvis left the building after a relatively brief run.
There is a plot here. Zark is a magician/rignmaster and the show takes place at a circus filled with talented acts. There's the girl who juggles five, then seven, balls while bouncing all over the place. There's an awe-inspiring sand painter who is so highly skilled you know she would have won America's Got Talent had she been on. There's also Cirque's de rigueur high-wire act, acrobats and some pretty good singers.
The sand painter is the one you haven't seen before in a Cirque show but, all together, this is a good reminder of what Cirque du Soleil can do and a beautiful introduction for Cirque newbies to all the possibilities. Love still leads the way for music and <em>Ka</em> for technology. But, all in all, Zarkana is a most welcome addition to the Cirque scene in Las Vegas.
Zarkana plays at Aria Resort and Casino Friday through Tuesday, at 7 & 9:30 p.m. Tickets, priced at $69 to $180 are available online at http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/zarkana/tickets/las-vegas.aspx or by phone through Aria, 877-253-5847.