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A man clad entirely in black broke into dance, spinning and flipping while holding a slender, flute-like stick in his hands. He let the stick go, but instead of dropping to the floor, it floated in front of him, magically doing its own dance around his body.
Another surprise: The apparatus suddenly lit up, as if illuminated from within. It was a “wow” moment, for sure, but what else would you expect from a Cirque du Soleil performance?
I was at Cirque’s Montreal headquarters, a sprawling complex where each element of the innovative traveling and permanent productions is brainstormed, conceived, designed, fabricated from scratch and then rehearsed.
The act with the glowing, dancing stick? It took place in a rehearsal studio outfitted with flying rigs, bungee cords and temporary simulations of stage plans — all part of a top-secret preview of the sequences slated for “Syma” and “Varelia,” two exclusive new shows created for MSC Cruises’ Cirque du Soleil at Sea entertainment program.
The shows will take place in the tech-forward, custom-built Carousel Lounge onboard the 5,700-passenger MSC Bellissima, which sails its maiden voyage March 4. The performances will also take place onboard MSC Grandiosa and MSC Virtuosa, which will debut in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and they’re already onboard MSC Meraviglia, which launched in 2017 with the first two Cirque du Soleil at Sea productions, “Sonor” and “Viaggio.” Once the ships are completed, eight original shows will be running on four vessels at one time.
“It’s a new creative challenge for us,” said Daniel Lamarre, president and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. “I am so pleased to be associated with MSC Cruises; they are pushing our bounds and creativity.”
The partnership was born five years ago, when Cirque was brought to MSC’s Geneva, Switzerland, headquarters for discussions.
“It was just exploring what the future of onboard entertainment is,” said Yasmine Khalil, chief executive producer for Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. “There’s no reason why it can’t be as good as it is when it’s land-based.”
Bellissima’s custom-built venue will occupy the vessel’s far aft, with an open sea view until showtime. The two productions, which run 40 minutes each and take place six days per week, are named after their respective main characters.
In “Syma,” for example, a young sailor searches for a secret island that has magical treasure. Meanwhile, “Varelia,” inspired by classic romance-fantasy adventures, features a blind hero who must rescue a purple-skinned princess from a purple-obsessed villain.
Both shows incorporate technology and eye-popping surprises in different ways: Physical props and video-mapping assist the storytelling in “Syma” (much like Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show “Ka”), while lasers transform the theater itself in “Varelia” and form structures and virtual props.
The Cirque shows are available for an additional fee: about $17 for the show and a drink, or about $40 for dinner and the show. Travel advisors receive 5 percent commission for booking guests in advance.
The DetailsMSC Cruises www.msccruisesusa.com