Cirque du Soleil Comes to Charlottesville

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It's a show known around the world for artistic illusions, dancing, and acrobatics - and now it is in this region. Quidam by Cirque du Soleil premiered Wednesday night in Charlottesville.

The show is about the imagination of a little girl.

"She doesn't get enough attention from her parents so she enters this imaginary world, and the numbers are basically her dreams coming true on stage," said cast member Kata Banhegyi.

And the cast promises all the usual thrills and acrobatics Cirque du Soleil is known for.

"Well, it's hard to expect the unexpected. It's Cirque du Soleil - we bring everything with us. It's the same quality of our Vegas-style entertainment that we have and we bring it to your backyard to make sure you don't miss it," said Jessica Leboeuf, a Quidam spokesperson.

The costumes are elaborate. There are 2,500 different pieces, from clothes, headpieces, shoes, gloves, hats, wigs and other accessories. All in all, there is $2 million worth of costumes for the show.

"One of our four costume specialists that we have on tour with us will make sure that the costumes fit correctly, that they're in pristine shape all the time," Leboeuf said.

Leboeuf said the images portrayed on stage are more human like than in other Cirque shows.

"The costumes for Quidam are really street inspired. If you've been to other Cirque shows you'll notice that a lot of the other costumes completely transform the body of a performer into a creature, whereas in Quidam everyone is human based, has human qualities and characteristics to them," she said.

"You can relate to the characters you see on stage. They remind you of someone that you used to know or they maybe remind you of an outfit you used to wear," she also said.

About 80 percent of the fabric that Cirque receives is white or in its original condition and the costume specialists will then hand dye it, silkscreen it, or even hand paint it. And while the costumes may look delicate, they're also very durable.

The costume designers have to keep the safety of the performers in mind when they create the costumes. From far away one costume looks like silk, but close up you'll see that it's actually made of a thick leather that protects the performers' skin as they climb up and down a rope suspended from the ceiling.

Keeping the cast in costumes is a constant effort. "We take 300 measurements of their body so we have a virtual replica of each performer at our head office and we can continue creating and producing costumes for them even though they're on tour somewhere with the show," Leboeuf said.

While the cast takes center stage every night in their elaborate costumes, the crew also deserves a lot of attention.  Each week, when the show moves to a different city, the crew sets up the entire stage in a matter of hours. It takes 15 trailers full of material and about 22 technicians, including up to 80 local stagehands, to set up the stage, and it only takes 12 to 13 hours to do it.

"It's a pretty involved process," said Sheldon Abel, the production stage manager. "Half the show is artists but most people don't know the other half is support staff just to make everything else work."

After the show is over it takes two and a half to three hours to break the entire thing down, then it's on to the next city.

Overall, the cast and crew say they're proud of the show they've put together. With aerobatics, detailed choreography, and a live band, Banhegyi said there's something for everyone. 

"I think you can find anything you would like in the show," she said. "It's very emotional and it's very nice."

And even if you've seen other Cirque Du Soleil shows, this one will stand out.

"It's a really human show and it really celebrates human relationships," Leboeuf said.

The show runs until Sunday. Tickets start at $40 and those interested in attending can buy them at Ticketmaster or in person at the John Paul Jones Arena box office.