Unprecedented Broadway: Cirque de Soleil PARAMOURJanuary 10, 2017 - by Elliott Richards
It may be teeming with virtuoso acrobats, tumblers, aerialists, unicyclists, and an irresistible clown (Nate Cooper), but Cirque de Soleil PARAMOUR is a world apart from conventional circus creations. Here these acts serve as a Cirque celebration and as a backdrop to one of Broadway’s most creative productions to date.
Ruby Lewis glows in the role of Indigo in Cirque de Soleil PARAMOUR. Photo by Richard Termine.
You see, these familiar acts are not alone onstage at the Lyric Theatre. They join a traditional musical storyline about a movie mogul, A.J. Golden (Jeremy Kushnier), his beautiful, auburn-haired discovery Indigo (Ruby Lewis), and her devoted composer/pianist Joey (Ryan Vona), who find themselves locked in a romantic triangle during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Indeed, Paramour is the perfect hybrid of signature Cirque, Broadway, and the glamorous world of 1930s/40s film, neatly blending circus brilliance with an A Star is Born-like tale. As Cirque creative guide/creative director Jean-François Bouchard notes, “We set out to create a compelling new form that would be greater than the sum of its parts.”
Written by West Hyler, with a score by Guy Dubuc, Marc Lessard, and Andreas Carlsson, this “exciting new mélange” as Bouchard calls it, is directed by French stage and film director Philippe Decouflé, who signed on for “an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
And so it has been, not only for Decouflé, but for the entire cast, including Lewis in her Broadway debut as the starlet Indigo, who is discovered by A.J. singing in an L.A. nightspot (“Ginger Top”) accompanied by Joey.
A.J., a charming tyrant who has a history of discovering—then discarding —starlets, believes he’s found a screen goddess in the making who will resurrect his flagging career. “A small-town girl turned major star,” he sings. (In “art imitates life” fashion, Lewis was discovered by the folks at Cirque theatricals while she was singing in an L.A. nightclub, with the cult troupe “For the Record.”)
Cast of PARAMOUR, photo by Richard Termine.
Lewis grew up watching RKO Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films. “I especially remember Swing Time, and so wanting to be singing and dancing like Ginger,” she says.
Once scooped up last summer, Lewis got her Cirque start—and education—in Las Vegas, where she marveled at the technology in KÀ and how the swimming pool disappeared in O. When she started in Paramour, she admits to a time of adjustment sharing the stage with Cirque’s choreographed stunts surrounding her.
“Having trained in musical theater, the most challenging thing in the beginning was keeping my focus,” she says, citing the love-triangle scene between A.J., Indigo, and Joey, during which trapeze artists parallel the lovers’ actions above them. “If something startled me,” Lewis recalls, “I might skip a lyric, or something. Now if things go wrong, I know I can handle it.”
If anything were to distract a performer in PARAMOUR, chances are it would come during the eye-popping “Cleopatra” sequence during which Marc Antony offers Indigo/Cleopatra a “mystical gift of twins”—the buff blond aerialists Andrew and Kevin Atherton, who soar out and above the audience in a hand-to-hand strap act that elicits gasps.
“They come at a point where—even if someone hasn’t been 100% sold on the show up til then—the twins make it happen,” says Lewis, whose fascination is equal to that of the audience. “Now that I know their routine so well, I have to watch myself because it’s easy to start swaying in anticipation of their next move,” she adds.
Once the twins spark your passion for action, get ready for the show’s chase-scene climax set on New York rooftops with acrobats bouncing off trampolines—a mesmerizing routine that prompted critic Rex Reed to say that it is worth seeing Paramour twice, “just to be sure you actually saw what you thought you saw the first time around.”
Cirque de Soleil PARAMOUR is playing at Broadway’s Lyric Theatre, 213 W. 42nd St., through April 16th. For tickets call 877-250-2929 or visit ParamourOnBroadway.com.