Mickey Mouse attended Cirque du Soleil's "La Nouba" on Wednesday night to mark the Downtown Disney fixture's 15th anniversary. The occasion was billed by Cirque publicists as Mickey's first visit to the imaginative, high-flying show.
I can't help but wonder: What took him so long?
For "La Nouba" is a theatrical gem, full of thrilling acrobatics, dazzling costumes, interludes of pure silliness and stirring music. But just as important is the glue that holds the production together: a sense of wonder and whimsy that must appeal to anyone with imagination.
At Wednesday's festivities, Mickey and Minnie clowned around with "La Nouba" performers before brief speeches marked the milestone.
"Millions and millions have been delighted by the show over the years," said Keith Bradford, vice president of Downtown Disney, in saluting the show.
And "La Nouba," which officially opened Dec.23, 1998, remains a delight. It doesn't take a special occasion to feel fresh and exciting. Even though more than 20percent of the cast is original to the production — the anniversary show was No.7,124 — nothing has become stale.
Part of that is due to the sheer athleticism of the acts: the frenetic flipping, twisting and tumbling of the acrobats, the strength and grace of the aerialists. There's more at stake than flubbing a line in a play; these performers are focused on landing on their feet. That intensity rubs off on the audience, which collectively holds its breath during acts such as the trapeze performance, thinking some variation of "don't fall!"
In 2010, the show was freshened with two new acts. A skip-rope segment builds in intensity until a final, beautifully staged trick draws gasps of admiration. The juggling addition was replaced Wednesday with "Rola Bola" — which combines juggling with a seemingly impossible balancing act on rolling cylinders and boards.
These daring deeds are matched with beautifully staged moments by writer-director Franco Dragone. The shadow of a female high-wire artist glides across the stage. The quirky Green Bird character perches high among the stars. Benoit Jutras' clever music adds both drama and fun.
A hallmark of Cirque du Soleil shows remains the absence of animals, despite the circuslike atmosphere. With the thrilling spectacle on display at "La Nouba," you'll never miss them.
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• What: Cirque du Soleil's "La Nouba," a colorful, animal-free circus-style performance with acrobats, clowns, live music and more
• Length: 90 minutes, no intermission
• Where: Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney, off Interstate 4 in Lake Buena Vista
• When: Regular showtimes are 6 and 9 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, though the schedule occasionally varies
• Tickets: $57-$124 ages 10 and older, $57-$99 for ages 3-9
• Call: 407-939-7328