A Fan, An Invitation, A Party — LA NOUBA! (Part Deux)

(Continued from last issue)

One after another the audience members jumped from their seats, hands clasping together in appreciation of yet another mind-boggling performance of Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba at the Cirque Theater in Downtown Disney West Side.

A deafening roar flooded the house as the artists of the nights performance filled the stage; an admiration of their mastery. Up in their roost the musicians rocked on as if their very life depended on it. Their song filling the theater with a sense of festivity.

And in this moment hundreds of balloons fell from the rafters, raining a celebratory cry upon us all. It was June 2nd, 2004; La Nouba was celebrating its 5th Anniversary and the inmates of the asylum were ecstatic.

Yours truly was there to share in that excitement and what follows is a continuation of the experience…

The 6:00pm show was just one act of a three-ring circus that night; a night that had only just begun. I was one of the last to leave the theater as most of the ensemble with credentials was told to stay behind. We would personally be escorted to the next item on the itinerary, but I felt a little lost. Many people began chatting around me to obvious acquaintances or friends, leaving me to my lonesomeness. Some even began to leave on their own and I wasn’t sure where to be or what to do. I probably looked dense sitting in my seat, or standing gazing idly at the La Nouba 5th Anniversary projection on the set, but I didn’t care. I had just observed one of the best performances of La Nouba I could remember and I was still misty-eyed and overwhelmed.

But eventually it was time for me to check out of the asylum. As I rounded the theater and once again came to a stop outside the Boutique, I pulled out the agenda and looked it over, thinking about what was coming next:

8:00pm to 10:00pm
— Dinner at BET Soundstage Club, Pleasure Island

10:00pm to 1:00am
— Post Production Party, Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, 2nd Floor.

Living in Orlando I’ve visited Disney World quite often and have seen parties ushered across the parks with a uniformed cast member’s red baton waving in the air, with a curiosity to know their destination. I never thought I would be one of those people until I rounded the theater’s boutique. At that very moment more than one uniformed Disney representative with red batons greeted us and led us through the gates of Pleasure Island to the BET Soundstage Club, where we would be wined and dined like kings and queens for the next two hours.

As I entered the club I was immediately struck by its stark decor. Sleek, stylish and contemporary, the BET Soundstage is multi-leveled (you enter from the top floor) and consists of two moderately sized rooms, a full bar and a performance stage. Since this was my first time at the club I wasn’t sure what I would find, however I expected more of a hip-hop theme rather than the Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Soul that the club is more styled for.

Both rooms were cleared and set up with an alternating display of sit down tables for those who wanted to eat, and standing tables for minglers to set their drinks upon. As I came round to one of the standing tables I was instantly offered a glass of red wine, which I took straight away. And why not? I was as much a guest here as the rest of the lot, and before long the entire media ensemble filled the club. Not everyone came mind you, but a good share did and whoever decided to come was looking for a feast.

And they were not to be disappointed.

Chefs were on hand to serve some of the most scrumptious and mouth watering dishes I’ve ever had: the most tender roast beef and juicy vegetables, succulent seasoned chicken with potatoes au-gratin, and delicious shrimp pasta with bread… to name but a few selections. And let’s not forget the deserts, which were a chocoholic’s dream! Chocolate Mouse Martini’s, wonderful fudge brownies, triple chocolate chip cookies and even tiramisu. There were of course other types of deserts, but those concoctions seemed to have slipped my chocolate-overloaded mind.

The meal was accented with more wine, good company, and a documentary about La Nouba’s five years. Since I didn’t know anyone at the dinner I stayed to myself and watched the video presentation, which was displayed on multiple flat-panel screens around the club. The video was pretty standard fodder — shots of performers in and out of makeup, running through their routines, interview snippets from cast and crew, music from the show, and various other material — but it kept me from going insane, really.

About an hour into the dinner I met a group of IT professionals from Disney, who asked me repeatedly if I worked for the company. I said no but understood their inquiry since I had worn a Disney polo shirt to the event. But it was nice to mingle with these folks since I, too am striving to be an IT professional someday, and boy did they have stories to tell. I also met Bob Mervine, staff-writer for the Orlando Business Journal, who was gracious and interested to hear my exploits. He and I, along with the nice young lady who had accompanied him, began to discuss Cirque at length. We were soon joined by a man whom I will only say was a Disney employee with a corporate credit card. He had other ideas for fun that night.

That fun would be had in the next club over — the Adventurer’s Club.

For those uninitiated, the Adventurer’s Club presents a unique interactive experience in a setting reminiscent of the fictional 1930s adventurer club. Old time pictures of African safari’s, jungle exploration in Asia or mountain scaling in India litter the wall with other paraphernalia of the avid adventurers.

“You are a visitor to the Adventurers Club on New Years Eve 1937,” the storyline goes, “when the Club holds an open house for the purpose of recruiting new members. You will be invited to become initiated as a Club member and participate in the various activities that are held that evening…” It’s been said that one should think of the Adventurer’s Club as a theater that is presenting a play, only you’re the star of said play.

My adventure began down in the Main Salon, where a full bar is accessible. The entertainment here is more “off the cuff”, improv, and raw than in other clubs. You never know exactly what’s going to happen when you enter this establishment, which is something I certainly found out as the evening progressed. Originally the three people I met at the dinner wanted to come over for a drink, so I followed because I didn’t want to be left alone (I normally don’t drink), but who would have thought I’d end up on the floor professing my desires for “‘ol Babylonia”, a mask, hanging on the wall?

Right… where’s my drink now? Rum and Coke, coming up!

The first few minutes of my foray into the Adventurer’s Club were rather subdued. I was actually at ease since I’d been to this particular club one other time so I knew exactly what kind of trouble one could get into here. But I kept things light, played along with the cast and had a good time chatting with my newfound friends. Before long, however, the Maid character found herself lodged between the nude legs of a full statue of Zeus, which was positioned in the center of the Main Salon.

“Oh, look,” said the Maid. “I seem to be in a bit of a spot.”

Oh my yes, she was. You never know exactly what any of the characters will say or do at any given moment in time. I made the mistake of catching the Maid’s eye and bantering back and forth with her, as she commented on her predicament. How could I stay silent with her head between Zeus’ legs? She was a prime target for my warped sense of humor. A few moments later, however, the wall above me began to come alive and with it a nasally voice filled the room.

“Oooh! Oooh! Oooh ancient Babylonia,” the cast chanted.

This sealed my fate. I was now about to be initiated.

The Maid snatched me from my bar stool and pulled me in line with Babylonia, a hanging mask fixtured to the wall. When it’s eyes and mouth started to move I got nervous and thought, “Oh lord… What exactly is going to happen here?” A moment later another gentlemen brandishing a bottle of Corona was swept up beside me and it was apparent that he too was going to be part of the fun and games. Whether he liked it or not, I might add (and he did not).

Now, picture little ‘ol shy me standing in front of a group of onlookers as I look up at Babylonia on the wall, wondering what on earth possessed me to come to the Adventurer’s Club? I knew whatever they had in store for me wasn’t going to be pretty. I’m sure they’d make me make a fool out of myself. Darnit, why did I have to tease the Maid? And at the thought of this my ears started burning.

“Oh, my subjects,” said Babylonia with great effort. “Greet me! Greet me like you would a passionate lover! Greet me with great affection!”

I did the only thing I could think of to do…

I got down on my knees and bowed, humbly.

Babylonia was ecstatic! One point for me.

Babylonia put the two of us through our paces. First, she made us show off our manly bodies, not by stripping naked right there in the Salon but by assuming the pose of Zeus’ statue: arms stretched out, legs slightly askance and muscles bulging (second point to me, though, no muscles to bulge). Secondly, I was forced to use my wisdom of words and profess my undying love to Babylonia, telling her how I’d ravish her, hold her and keep her safe. And thirdly, with scores of people watching us unabated, Babylonia made us dance for her. Oh, not a slow dance to be sure; how about swinging hips and pelvic thrusts?

Talk about embarrassment; I was crimson. But it was fun! I returned to the bar after a roaring round of applause from the onlookers and sat amongst my new friends. Did I need that drink now? Oh yes… Kungaloosh! Kungaloosh!

The partying and drinking continued over at Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, where we waited for the cast and crew of La Nouba to show up after their second performance. Here I was completely out of my element, wandering around with my newfound friends until we lost each other. Soon, the likes of the Bilodeau brothers (German Wheel), Yuri Maiorov (Aerial Ballet in Silk), Carlos Moreira (Aerial Cradle/Character), Krystian Sawicki (Le Titan), and many, many other members of the cast and crew came to live it up; to party!

And live it up they did!

The party was still going when I turned to leave, around midnight. I was tired and overwhelmed but extremely happy. I had an amazing night that would not have been possible except by the generosity of Cirque du Soleil and those behind the scenes at La Nouba. And for that I want to say thank you for allowing me to participate in La Nouba’s 5th Anniversary celebration. It was a blast!