Flashy stunts, sketchy story in Cirque du Soleil's ‘Volta’

Flashy stunts, sketchy story in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’

At the outset of “Volta,” the Cirque du Soleil show now under the big top in San Francisco, a lively host named Mr. Wow greets ladies and gentlemen with a promise they’re about to see the greatest talent show on earth.

A similar exclamation was laid to rest in 2017 with the demise of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, ending a century-old American tradition, which, in its final years, added extreme sports to its lineup of elephants and trapeze artists.

Interestingly, BMX bikers close out this edition of Cirque, which has street vibe stunts and ragtag costumes (by Zaldy Goco) apparently to draw in younger audiences.

“Volta,” after the ringmaster-reminiscent opening, serves up great feats set to electronic music and flashing lights as contestants in Mr. Wow’s game show perform: Five Japanese athletes in glittered jumpsuits speedily skip rope, even on their hands; Cambodian juggler Dina Sok dazzles; Bradley Henderson spins in a hoop; and Marie-Lee Guilbert balances on the head of unicyclist Philippe Bélanger.

Then comes the classic semi-comprehensible Cirque story (by director Bastien Alexandre). The hero, young blue-haired Waz (Joey Arrigo), a dancer on the game show, undergoes a transformation. Having apparently been mocked by automaton-like soldiers carrying cellphones, and later, newspapers, Waz meets healing free spirits, headed by a roller skater (Paola Fraschini), whose feather-like headdress uncomfortably references indigenous peoples.

Pawel Walczewski swings from a lamp in “Volta.” (Courtesy Matt Beard)

In his older incarnation, Waz has an exciting solo: Pawel Walczewski, who flies through the air on a hanging light fixture, is one of “Volta’s” multiple acts showcasing amazing aerial artists. A group swings on rings and bounces on bungee lines; Kia Eastman and Charlotte Sumian climb and balance on a hanging ladder; gymnast twins Andrew and Kevin Atherton powerfully balance on straps; and, to the audience’s particular delight, the scantily clad Danila Bim (in a flesh-colored leotard with strategically place jewels), spins on a rope attached to a bun atop her head.

Mr. Wow, Andrey Kislitsin, does double duty as a clown in both acts, in too-long solo bits involving washing machines and balloons that have little to do with the plot.

Story aside, as is the case with many Cirque productions — “Volta” is the 19th to hit the Bay Area in 30 years– the best acts are the heart-stopping group stunts executed by perfectly synced performers.

It’s worth the price of admission to witness gravity-defying, spinning bikers on ramps; bouncers on trampolines hitting the top of a building in superhero fashion and acrobats diving through strategically stacked hoops. They’re truly mind-blowing.

REVIEW
Volta
Presented by Cirque du Soleil
Where: Big Top, Third Street and Terry A. Francois Boulevard, S.F.
When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays-Thursdays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. most Fridays-Saturdays, 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sundays; 1:30 p.m. Dec. 24 and Dec. 31; closes Feb. 3
Tickets: $54 to $290
Contact: www.cirquedusoleil.com/volta
Note: “Volta” runs Feb. 13-March 24 in San Jose.Bastien AlexandreCirque du Soleil ]Danila BimJoey ArrigoPawel WalczewskiTheaterVoltaZaldy Goco

Just Posted

Salesforce Tower and several other buildings in downtown San Francisco can be seen through the fog; climate scientists report that The City’s beloved mascot may be on the decline. (Courtesy Engel Ching)
Is San Francisco losing its fog? Scientists fear the worst

This isn’t just an identity crisis for San Franciscans. It’s an ecological problem

The Bay Area is vying to be one of 16 communities,<ins> spread across the U.S., Canada and Mexico,</ins> to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup soccer championships. Games would be played at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. (Courtesy Bay Area Host Committee, World Cup 2026)
Bay Area launches bid to host World Cup games in 2026

FIFA officials pay San Francisco a visit as they tour prospective venues

San Francisco City Administrator Carmen Chu, who took office in February, is in the process of restructuring the sprawling department. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli/Special to The Examiner)
Report knocks city administrator for inefficiency, lack of transparency

‘A culture that allows corruption to take place’

Outside Lands boasts high-quality food and drink from dozens of purveyors, and many are local.<ins> (Courtesy Outside Lands)</ins>
Outside Lands is for food lovers

85 food vendors, 40 wineries, 30 breweries make the festival nourishing to gluttonous

California Highway Patrol officers watch as Caltrans workers remove barricades from homeless camp sites as residents are forced to relocate from a parking lot underneath Interstate 80 on Monday, May 17, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco’s broken promise to resolve homeless encampments

‘There is an idea that The City is leading with services, and they are not’

Most Read