Issue #135: APR 2015 – Released!

Welcome to the latest edition of Fascination, the Unofficial Cirque du Soleil Newsletter.

And perhaps the last with Cirque du Soleil as an independent company. What am I talking about? It all started on Wednesday, March 25th with a blurb from the Globe and Mail. In it the paper suggested the sale of Quebec’s famed Cirque du Soleil was moving into the final stages, with bidders given until the following week to submit offers to a acquire a controlling stake in the company. We’d heard rumblings of Cirque’s intent in seeking a new “strategic investment partner” – someone who might be interested in taking a 10% or 20% stake in the company (as it did with Istihmar World Capital/Naakeel, who holds a 10% stake currently) – as far back as 2011, and even more rumblings of a pending investment these past few weeks, but nothing so drastic as what the Globe and Mail reported: that Mr. Laliberté had agreed to sell all but 10% of his stake. A stake estimated to be worth $2 Billion. We remain cautiously optimistic about the new prospects, of course. New money and new blood could help revitalize Cirque du Soleil financially and creatively, but we’d be lying if we were happy about the news. Cirque du Soleil has remained virtually independent for the last 30 years… to see it suddenly fall in the hands of investors – with boards of directors and revenue generating requirements – does give us pause. If the process concluded as planned, bidding ended on Friday, April 3rd. It’s been said that the decision could have been made as early as Easter Sunday, but as of press time, there’s been no news out of Montreal.

No news except, of course, that Cirque du Soleil Theatrical has found its first project since becoming a separate arm under the new Cirque du Soleil Group moniker: The Wiz. That’s right. Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown’s The Wiz will be presented as NBC’s third annual live musical, according to Variety. The production will be co-produced by Cirque du Soleil’s new stage theatrical division and is set to head to Broadway for a revival (also presented by Cirque du Soleil) during the 2016-17 season. The Wiz, a retelling of L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz stories, opened on Broadway in 1975 and won seven Tony’s including Best Musical and Best Score. A 1978 film version starred Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. It was last seen in New York in a New York City Center Encores! Summer Stars revival in 2009, with a cast led by Ashanti, Orlando Jones, and Tony winner LaChanze. No casting information for the latest revival has been announced thus far, but the news has certainly raised eyebrows in the Cirque du Soleil fan community. What do we think? Well… hmm… We’ll have to wait and see. It’s certainly not the first thing that popped in our heads when the new theatrical division was announced in January 2014.

On a happier note: it’s been rumored for a while now, and last month the first date appeared on the itinerary, but’s its officially official: KOOZA is returning to North America for an extended run under the big top! Following its run in Bern, Cirque’s 2007 show Kooza will set up stakes in Columbus, OH then move on to Virginia Beach, Pittsburgh, and Austin. Whether Kooza will stay in North America following its run in Austin is not yet known, nor is it known where the show may end up afterward. So stay tuned! And similarly, dates for Varekai’s Arena Tour well into late 2016 have also shown up, so any rumors of the show ending Summer 2016 are completely false (at this time at least).

That being said, however, just as we were putting the final touches on this month’s issue, the team behind Varekai’s arena tour gave us another shock… they bid adieu to its Icarian Games artists and to the discipline in its entirety. That’s right, they’re not going to be replaced with another Icarian Games team; Icarian Games is out of Varekai for good! I know it’s hard to believe – Icarian Games is to Varekai as Banquine is to Quidam – but it’s true! What will replace the discipline is rumored to be an Acro Sport group, which Varekai’s Facebook page teased on Easter Sunday. We hear the new group is fantastic – and we wish them all the best as they get integrated in the show – but we’ll miss Icarian Games!

As always we also have the posts made to Cirque’s Facebook pages, and updates to Cirque’s touring schedule. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up Issue #5 of “The Chapiteau-Fascination! Magazine” here: < >.

So, let’s get started!