I’m going to try something a little different for this review and that’s a rating system. I figured I would break the theater going experience down into ten categories, then assign 1-10 points for each category and give this brand new blog category a score out of 100. Maybe that will be helpful for other folks and hopefully it will be fun to write.
So, we decided to head to Cirque du Soleil’s winter-themed show Wintuk at Madison Square Garden as I mentioned yesterday. Thanks to the fact that Broadway shows apparently don’t run on Thursdays, we hasically had to decide between seeing this and the Rockettes and Cirque won out. I had never seen a Cirque show before, but I watched that behind-the-scenes show they did a while back and thought it looked pretty rad with all those flips and whatnot. This particular performance was…odd.
Wintuk’s story is total bullshit. I just need to say that right off the bat. There’s some kind of witch who is from Wintuk (it’s a winter place), a kid who wants winter, a girl he chases around, a bunch of extreme sports-loving people, a few robbers, some dogs and then a trip to Wintuk with giant ice monsters, huge storks and some natives. There’s no real point to the whole thing except for there to be snow at the end. All the going-to-Wintuk stuff happens after intermission and, at the intermission break, we all kind of looked at each other confusedly and no one really had any clue what was happening. The general consensus both then and after the show was that the story wasn’t important, just the flips and whatnot. However, being a story-driven person, I can’t accept that. If you’re going to have a story, have one that isn’t mind-numbingly confusing (and mostly in other languages, possibly made-up ones) or just get rid of it all together and just do crazy stuff.
This is a tough one. How do you judge the acting of a bunch of people who don’t really have much of a script? I gave them a 6 because they seemed to do well with what they were given, but, again, these aren’t particularly complex characters. Plus, there was a lot of range in performances. There was the guy who, for some reason, wore a garbage can for half the show. I have no idea what he was doing or why, so he wasn’t very good. The main kid was alright and so was the winter witch. My personal favorites were the people in the dog suits. They really nailed the animal-like movements. So, I guess overall they get an above average rating because I’m feeling a little generous.
For the purposes of this review, music covers both the instrumental stuff and the songs themselves, while the actors’ performance of those songs will be covered in the singing category. I actually dug the music a lot. It mixed between rock, your basic instrumental theater stuff and that fun thing they do in cartoons when the music interacts with the actions of the people on stage. Instead of having a traditional pit with an orchestra, the theater had some small, fairly visible rooms running along the top of both sides of the room so you could see what they were doing. From what I can remember, there were drums, a guitar, a violin and maybe a few other instruments. It was fun to watch them rock out a little bit at times. Overall the songs themselves were confusing because they were often in another language and made little sense as a result.
Again, the songs were mostly incomprehensible. When that happens, you usually rely on the singer to relay the emotions of the song and the weather witch didn’t really do such a good job of that. I think she was the only one to actually sing. She didn’t sing poorly, just not very effectively.
As you might expect, the moves were sick. I mentioned the extreme sports characters earlier, that’s because the first half of the show involves people on bikes, skateboards and skates rolling around and doing all kinds of cool tricks off of the set, which had a high ramp leading from offstage onto the stage, a ramp leading offstage on the other side and an arch-like ramp in the middle. You also got a few traditional circus acts that kind of reminded me of my trip to the country fair earlier this year like tightrope walkers and juggling. The first act ended with a rad sequence with several robbers being chased and the floor spreading out to reveal a long strip of trampoline floor. It was very cool. Then, once they made the trip to Wintuk you got some of the crazier stuff you expect from Cirque with hoolahooping, that rope dancing thing and this wild thing where two guys held two long poles and bounced their brother up and down on it. I wish I knew what these things were called, but I don’t even know how to Google it, but it was all crazy. Considering the show is basically one big carnival and all the stunts looked spectacular (and dangerous) Wintuk definitely earned a 10 in this field.
I had never been to Madison Square Garden before and I guess technically, I still haven’t as this show was in the smaller Washington Mutual Theater. It wasn’t a very big place, and according to the Wiki page for MSG, the stage ceiling is only 20 feet tall, which is probably why I felt nervous any time someone was launched into space. I did get the feeling that the show could have been a lot bigger given a larger stage, so that made it feel a bit cramped. However, I did appreciate how they tried to give the whole event more of a carnival feel. Not only could you get cotton candy and popcorn, but also snowcones, which we did and I regretted as I got a killer freeze chest pain right before the show started and felt like I was going to explode. But, hey, that’s my bad, not theirs. The seats themselves were very comfortable though, which is good because we were there for a while.
I described the set above with all the ramps and whatnot. It didn’t really change much with the exception of some smaller items like trash cans and clotheslines for tricks. If it wasn’t for the cool aspects of the show, like the ramps and the floor that moved away to reveal the trampoline, the set would be pretty bland and boring. I can’t tell if I like the simplicity of it or if it just felt kind of lazy. I know, I know, common thought will say that the set doesn’t matter as much, but, again, I disagree.
Oh, the costumes. Remember those extreme sports kids I keep mentioning? They look like they stepped out of a Saturday morning teen drama from NBC with all kinds of crazy neon stuff. The cops sport uncomfortably tight unitards that look like something out of Idiocracy. The main kid and the girl who is pretty much just an object of affection and serves no real purpose both wear okay costumes. The costumes only get really interesting later in the second half when they’re on Wintuk.
SPECIAL EFFECTS 5/10
Hey spoiler warning, but the whole show is built around snow, so it should come as no surprise that you get paper snowflakes blasted at you at the very end. This was spoiled a little bit when I sat down and saw some already in my chair, but overall they did a helluva job cleaning up a metric butt ton of paper snow. Aside from that, there aren’t a ton of special effects. The ice monsters and storks both tower over everyone and look great and they project a face on the curtain in the very beginning but that’s about it. The 5/10 doesn’t mean it wasn’t good, just that there wasn’t a whole lot of it, but what was there was good for the most part.
With tickets ranging from $55-$220, the cost/benefit will be different for everyone depending on both their available income and their enjoyment of the show (of course). Our tickets were in the $75 dollar range which granted us great seats along the far side. The only downside of those seats were that we couldn’t see the orchestra members playing above us. I’m not sure what standard Cirque tickets cost, but I walked away more disapointed than thrilled after the show. It just didn’t live up to what I had expected in my head, and the whole not making sense thing just didn’t sit well with me. There were plenty of fun moments, but I wouldn’t go back. I would however check out another Cirque show, though probably not at the WaMu mini theater. For that amount of money you could probably score tickets at the TKTS booth and check out a real life Broadway show with a star or two in it and some songs you can understand.
OVERALL SCORE 50/100
Well, if you’ve read this whole review, it should come as no surprise that the overall score is so low. While I enjoyed a lot of parts of this experience and even got somewhat emotionally involved when I was worried that some of the performers would injure themselves, my overall enjoyment was pretty low. At times in the first act I dozed off for short periods of time because there was nothing to keep my interest. I’ve seen a dude juggle on a tightrope and it was in a shitty circus at a county fair, which made it more impressive to me. So, if you can handle a lot of stunts with no story (honestly, it had less than any stunt show you’ll see at Disney World) and some outdated costumes, Wintuk is for you. I don’t regret going, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to many people without giving them a list of my problems with it. But, if it sounds like something you’d dig, the show’s playing in NYC through January 4th and you can check out information and tickets here.