Special Reports

'Alegria' delivers mostly-impressive show at Intrust Bank Arena

Go to Cirque du Soleil's "Alegria" this weekend if you're needing motivation to work out, missing the magic of the circus, or trying to remember why you hate clowns.

The show, which opened Wednesday and runs for five more performances through Sunday at Intrust Bank Arena, is a can't-look-away blend of gravity-defying acrobatics, classic circus antics (minus the animals), and clowns. Lots of creepy, somewhat annoying clowns.

For the uninitiated, Cirque du Soleil — which translates to Circus of the Sun — is a group of performers who put on lavish, costumed, circus-like stage shows that focus on visuals, music and acrobatics. "Alegria," featuring a troupe of Montreal-based performers, is one of the franchise's oldest shows and has been seen by more than 10 million people since it debuted in 1994.

If you've ever seen a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas, the arena show might not impress you quite as much. Though it's staged at the arena's half-court, allowing for a crowd of only about 2,000 (and there were many empty seats on Wednesday), it's not as intimate as the glossier small-theater productions. The acrobatics, though, are just as awesome.

The show is at its best when the amazingly toned acrobats are doing their thing — swinging and spinning from two-story bungee chords, performing multiple flips and twists on in-stage trampolines, and flying dramatically from trapeze swings dangling above the audience.

It's at its worst when a pair of circus clowns perform their creepy slapstick during costume changes, a trick that sucks the energy out of the show and drags on a bit too long. (Did anyone else on Wednesday notice the clowns' unmistakable Gremlin dialect?)

The show also should appeal to fans of new-age music, as the entire affair is accompanied by a full, costumed band and a female lead singer — donning a tutu and bumble-bee antennae — who fills the arena with a raspy, beautiful soundtrack of mysterious music sung in a mixture of Spanish, Italian and English.

"Alegria" is Spanish for "jubilation," and the acrobats in Wednesday night's shows were jubilant.

Among the highlights of the show: a male and female pair of trapeze artists who swung to the rafters and performed gasp-inducing flips, spins and stunts; a muscular male contortionist who could bend and twist his body in any direction while balancing, upside down, on one arm; and a troupe of gymnasts dressed in feathery, bird-like costumes who flipped and flew in a perfectly choreographed, high-flying routine.

The filler act in between acrobats was a duo of clowns who goofed around the stage endlessly, squeaking and squealing and inserting fart jokes into an otherwise classy show. They were at times painful to watch, but half of the crowd seemed to find them hilarious to the point of belly laughs. (There were several children in the audience.)

During one impressive clown moment, one of the duo survived a simulated blizzard that sent paper snow flying backward so forcefully that it reached the arena's brewpub in the very back.

Though the show had no narrative plot, per se, it was a circus-like spectacle with floor-to-ceiling amazingness that was never boring.

Except during the clowns.