S. E. Williams
For the First Time Ever, a Musical Acrobatic Adventure Comes to Riverside
“Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going, don’t take anything too seriously, it’ll all work out in the end.” – David Niven
For the first time in Riverside, Cirque Éloize will bring its eleventh original creation, Saloon – A Musical Acrobatic Adventure to the Fox Performing Arts Center for two shows only on Saturday, February 18.
Cirque Éloize is considered by many in the industry as a driving force in the circus art reinvention movement. For nearly 25 years, it has created award-winning entertainment content and it is ranked among the world’s leading contemporary circuses. From the Magdalen Islands, “éloize” is an Acadian word meaning “heat lightning”. The name was selected because it captures the essence of Cirque Éloize—heat and energy.
According to spokesperson Jessica Redden, Cirque Éloize has taken part in numerous prestigious international festivals and has engaged audiences in both New York’s Broadway and London’s West End. “Its productions are crafted for a wide range of audiences and have been embraced by over 50 cultures.”
During the last quarter century, Cirque Éloize’s eleven shows were presented in more than 4,000 performances in over 500 cities and were seen by more than three million spectators.
Saloon is the eleventh production under the banner of Cirque Éloize and one of the three shows currently touring internationally. In addition to its touring shows, more than 1,400 Cirque Éloize-designed private events have taken place worldwide.
Recently, in an interview with The Voice/ Black Voice News, one of Saloon’s stars, Ben Nesrallah, discussed Saloon, its inspiration and his role in the performance.
Born just outside of Ottawa, Nesrallah is a Canadian by birth. He is also a very talented and versatile musician. He plays the fiddle, the guitar, the banjo, the piano and even signs. In Saloon, he acts the part of one of the Vultures, a live band that performs on stage throughout the presentation.
“There is a whole team of people behind what we do,” Nesrallah explained. The show is actually the first collaboration between Cirque Éloize and the show’s musical director, celebrated Canadian composer Eloi Painchaud, who also happens to be the cousin of President and Artistic Director, Jeannot Painchaud.” – Ben Nesrallah
Although Nesrallah has an extensive music background, he shared, “This is the first time I’ve done a show like this.” He described the show as a ‘wild west throw-back’. “It’s a tip of the hat to the expansion of America,” he explained.
Saloon was inspired by the rich legacy of the Wild West—it transports audiences to a dusty gathering place. At each performance, Cirque Eloize has invited audiences to ‘swing open the Saloon doors’ and enjoy a musical and acrobatic adventure.
In a statement, Jeannot Painchaud, President and Artistic Director of Cirque Éloize as well as the Creative Director of Saloon shared, “The show was inspired by our thriving power, the same strength that has motivated us for nearly 25 years. We borrow from the world of the Wild West, which we have so much in common with—a fundamental commitment to moving forward, toughness and the survival instinct, a tendency for irreverence and a sharing sense of community.”
Painchaud added, “The Saloon is a wonderful playground for work of artistic exploration. It’s also a place of opportunity, one that made us want to try something different. It has the physical energy of acrobatics combined with the poetry of the theatrical approach, punctuated with humor and accompanied by amazing live music.” He described Saloon as bright, funny and musical.
“There is a whole team of people behind what we do,” Nesrallah explained. The show is actually the first collaboration between Cirque Éloize and the show’s musical director, celebrated Canadian composer Eloi Painchaud, who also happens to be the cousin of President and Artistic Director, Jeannot Painchaud.
Saloon, “takes the archetypes of the old west and tosses in a love story,” Nesrallah said. It also mixes country excerpts from such well-known artists as Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash with more festive, folk-inspired compositions. “Folk music resonates,” Nesrallah explained. “There is a pulse in folk music,” he continued and added. “It grounds the show.”
Also according to Nesrallah, the show touches on a lot of different genres. What is especially unique about it he explained is that, “Generally, there is a real kind of divide between the musicians and what is going on with the show; but in this show, there are the three musicians (The Vultures) and we are in the middle of the world that has been created.”
Nesrallah stressed how the live element of music is prevalent throughout the entire show. “We are staying with these characters,” he explained. “They are the story tellers of the show. It adds another dimension to it.” Nesrallah confided, just as one might expect, Saloon is not without its share of conflicts and complexities. He described the performance as an incredible mix of a number of different things happening simultaneously. “Acrobatically,” he assured, “It is so incredible in terms of what is being done on stage.”
Director Emmanuel Guillaume called Saloon an acrobatic comedy with eleven, top-level, multidisciplinary artists who perform their roles with exuberance and humor. He described it as an invitation to the party, a fertile ground for emotions where everything is permitted. According to Guillaume, it as a meeting of different art forms that were, “already part of the rich heritage of this mythical place back then.”
Since 1993, the Canadian based Cirque Éloize has worked to position itself at the heart of the renewal of circus arts and has created moving performances filled with magic. Known for its commitment to artistic excellence, it is one of the leaders in contemporary circus arts.
The company expresses its innovative nature through theatricality and humanity and combines circus arts with music, dance and theater in what it described as a path-breaking and original manner.
Tickets for Cirque Eloize: Saloon are on sale now at the Fox Performing Arts Center Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster. com, riversidelive.com, or can be charged by phone at 800-745-3000.