Orlando Weekly: “Drawn to Life” is Charming

Cirque du Soleil’s Drawn to Life at Disney Springs, originally slated to debut days before the pandemic struck, follows a young girl who finds her late father’s enchanted animator’s desk and falls into a dreamscape inspired by Disney classics.

The international circus acts Cirque has assembled are once again breathtaking, but this time they’ve been cleverly themed around vintage cartoons and the basic principles of hand-drawn animation. A troupe of bouncing acrobats demonstrate “squash and stretch”; a trapeze-like swing swirls with projected brushstrokes plucked straight from Mary Blair’s vibrant paintings; and the terrifying spinning “double wheel” is transformed into the windmill from 1937’s The Old Mill. At times, the flawless blend of athletic artistry and cutting-edge stagecraft nearly brought me to tears, such as during a romantic zero-gravity dance duet. Other moments made me laugh out loud, like when a drawing desk came to life and galloped away like a pony.

Almost all of Drawn to Life’s direct references to Disney are integrated delicately, including original “pencil test” animations supervised by veteran director Eric Goldberg and subtle nods to familiar films woven into the costumes and musical scores.

Unfortunately, it seems someone behind the scenes lost confidence in Orlando audiences’ ability to appreciate a nonverbal narrative, leading Cirque’s cast to break their cardinal rule and speak English (instead of their usual charming gibberish) during several unnecessarily verbose sequences. Worse, there are a couple of egregious transitions filled with shameless mugging and self-referential quotes that feel like the work of someone from the theme parks’ entertainment department, instead of writer-director Michel Laprise.

Drawn to Life’s tonally jarring missteps — which could easily be edited out — briefly broke the magic spell that Cirque du Soleil’s best shows (such as Love and Mystere in Las Vegas) always cast over me, but a B-plus production by Cirque is still miles ahead of almost everyone else’s best efforts.

My critiques aside, La Nouba’s successor is worth the price of admission, as long as you don’t pay extra for the seats down front. Like so many things at Disney, this show looks best with a little distance.

{ SOURCE: Orlando Weekly }