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

On June 2, 2004, Cirque du Soleil together with the Walt Disney Company celebrated La Nouba’s 5th Anniversary, and yours truly was invited along to join in the fun. Imagine my surprise when I returned home from CirqueCon 2004 in Vancouver to find the invitation from Publicist and PR representative with La Nouba here in Orlando, waiting patiently in my email’s inbox.

“La Nouba, presented by Cirque du Soleil exclusively at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, is celebrating five amazing years! We would be very honored if you could join us! You are invited to join us for the 9pm performance of La Nouba on June 2, 2004, followed by a celebration with the cast and crew! (There’s RSVP information). Thank you for your continued support of Cirque du Soleil. We look forward to seeing you at La Nouba on June 2!”

I left for Downtown Disney on the 2nd full of excitement, unsure of exactly what to expect upon my arrival. It felt like electricity was in the air; I was anticipating the experience so much that my palms were sweating. What would it be like? Would they do something special during the show? What would happen afterward? Would I really get to meet the cast? All these questions and more surfaced in my mind at one time or another.

Once I arrived I immediately located the media check-in table, which was located along the backside of the theater. I was at a loss for words when I walked up to the press agents. Concerned was more like it, because I really didn’t know under what pretence they had me placed on their lists. I’m not official “media” in the true sense of the word (unlike many of the other folks there) so I was a little curious, and spoke with trepidation. I needn’t have worried; my credentials were already on hand in an envelope marked with my name.

The credentials consisted of a lanyard with an ID Tag featuring a black background with a headshot of one of the Les Cons at the top and “Celebrating 5 years! La Nouba June 2004” underneath in varying font sizes and varieties. Below that was the space for my name and what resided there drew a smile: “Richasi” was on top in bold and below that “Ricky Russo.” Too cool!

Accompanying the credentials was an itinerary sheet, which detailed the evening’s events, as follows:

— Show Seating Time
6:00pm to 7:30pm
— Special La Nouba Performance
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.

This was but a fraction of what the press and other honored guests were able to experience throughout the day, as I found out. It was unfortunate I wasn’t able to come earlier, but I was extremely happy and honored just to be considered, mind you. Here’s what I missed:

— Celebration Moment, Cirque du Soleil Theater Exterior
12:00pm to 1:30pm
— Behind-the-Scenes lunch with the Cast
1:30pm to 4:00pm
— La Nouba Media Experiences

It was really that last one I was the most interested in. I wondered what exactly were the media allowed to do? Were they given backstage tours? (Most definitely.) Were they allowed on stage? (Possibly.) Did they get to try their hand in some acts? (Surely Not… right?)


I learned this while speaking with a newspaper writer out of the Tampa Bay area. He was filling me in on the entire special “goodies” the press were able to take part in during that Special Media Experience time I missed. Not only were they able to take backstage tours and climb up into the rafters and see the scaffolding, but also received the opportunity to tumble on the FastTrack!

He regaled me with tales of some of the media personnel who were overanxious to try, and some who were just too frightened to attempt it. As for me, if I had been there, I think you know what I would do. I would be all over that FastTrack in a heartbeat! Though I have no formal training (ok, I have absolutely no training at all), I think just being given the opportunity to tumble would have been more than enough. What an experience, no?

Before long it was time to enter the theater — the pre-show was about to begin, so I took my seat in Section 204, Row HH, Seat 10. The view from this seat was spot on, dead center, right behind the soundman by a few rows. I couldn’t have asked for a better seat on such a short notice.

When the lights dimmed, and after the safety announcement was played, the characters paraded themselves before me and it was like those two years since I’d last seen the show had melted away. I was transported back to 1999, my first viewing of La Nouba, and reveled in history. You see, La Nouba was my first live Cirque du Soleil show, and it helped spawn something in me that has been going strong for five years now. So, it was somewhat fitting that not only was I celebrating my 5-year Anniversary as a Cirque du Soleil fan, but was also celebrating La Nouba’s 5th Anniversary in-house!

The show itself was very good and enlightening, such a contrast to Quidam in Vancouver. I loved watching the characters hang on the mountain set in various poses during the acts. I watched the Green Bird and The Red Dancer many times and found myself watching the secondary visuals much more than the primary acts! Some things even surprised me, like the fact that Krystian’s “Le Titan” character spit fire during the opening sequence, sending an enormous fireball stream skyward.

Or, how the Green Bird performed on a small pendulum swing during the trapeze act, instead of chasing its small flower around. This change must have occurred some time ago, after original Green Bird Elena Day left, but since it had been about two years since I’d seen the production, this was the first time I’d seen it. It’s actually very poignant, because it allows the flightless bird a chance to fly.

During the silk act I watched the Pierrot Dancer and the Ballerina dance their emotional ballet and became teary-eyed near the end of their dance when the Ballerina left him for the Flying Man, walking away from his embrace. It was gut wrenching to see him hang his head and turn away in sadness and disappointment, and equally so when she returned to him. I still say La Nouba’s Silk act is one of the best Silk acts I’ve seen in Cirque. Not necessarily because of the emotion it provokes, but the overall presentation. The entire palate is filled with the color red from the silk, and the artists a mixture of white and blue. It’s just sweet stuff.

It was my first performance of La Nouba with the new “chair-balancer”, Rokardy, and his act is very interesting. For those of you who have yet to see the show, he replaces Vasilly Dementchoukov, a veteran of Cirque du Soleil (he performed the same chair-balancing act in Cirque’s 1990 production Nouvelle Experience). While Vasily balanced only on chairs, Rokardy takes this discipline a step further by balancing on a chair, a clock, a baby carriage and just about anything else he can find laying around.

And then there were the singers, embodied and full of life. They weren’t nearly as strong as I would have hoped but on par with previous vocalists. At one time, though, I caught myself doing the “hand maneuver” made famous by Jeff Tolotti (a fellow fan) in anticipation of the female singer’s entrance.

All too soon the production came to a close, but it would be an ending not soon forgotten. For during the final stanza and last curtain call hundreds of multi-colored balloons were released from the rafters, covering everyone in the audience! Balloons were flying, hands were clapping, and whistles were blowing and through it all I stood, misty-eyed, as the phase “La Nouba 5th Anniversary” was projected on the asylum wall.

It was truly a birthday bash.

But the show was just one act of a three-ring circus that night.

In our next issue I’ll conclude my experience with La Nouba’s 5th Anniversary Celebration by taking you through the Dinner at the BET Soundstage Club at Pleasure Island and the Post Production Party at Bongo’s Cuban Cafe. Stay Tuned!