I am not a Cirque du Soleil virgin. In fact, I’ve scene enough shows to say I’ll keep ‘my number’ private. But most recently, I fell in love with Iris at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood. Being an L.A. girl, a show themed around the history of film was like my dream man. I doubted it could be topped! But if this were a relationship, Zumanity would be the older, more mature partner that seductively sweeps you off your feet. And who doesn’t like the sound of that!
Zumanity has been deemed ‘the sensual side of Cirque du Soleil’, a departure for a group known for their family entertainment. But after all it is Vegas, so why not expect a production to be a little risqué. Enter Zumanity- a funny, sexy, jaw-dropping performance. The show is equal parts seductive and provocative, so you better be ready to leave your inhibitions at the door… or at least in the casino!
Sure, it has all the acrobatics and physical feats you’ve come to expect from a Cirque production, but it focuses more on creating an intimate space with the audience. For starters, the show is hosted by Edie, a ballsy (no pun intended) drag queen (Christopher Kenney) who makes you feel as if you are on your first date- nervous, excited, and pretty sure someone is going to take their clothes off by the end of the night if all goes well. One look from Edie and you know you might end up on stage willingly or otherwise. As one fan expressed, “the host was in no short supply of wisecracks and double entendres,” which really set the tone for the show.
The show uses all the standard elements associated with Cirque- acrobatics, music, costumes, and dance; it just employs them with a focus on love, sensuality, and eroticism. Let’s be clear, the show is about sex- gay, straight, group, or otherwise. One of the opening acts includes a girl dressed in native garb and beads (Wassa Coulibaly) dancing seductively to attract her male counterpart (half man- half beast, artist Simon Tinhan) who joins her on stage with animal-like veracity as the two take on sexual positions. It is the core of human behavior and animal instinct and it makes it unabashedly clear where the show is headed.
Other standout acts include two young women (Katerina Bazarova, Bolormaa Zorigtkhuyag) who portray grace, strength, and flexibility as they convey lesbian love in a fish bowl. You will swear mermaids really do exist by the end of their routine. The show adds elements of humor throughout the performances. For example, one act features the most erotic pole dance in Sin City, as it’s dancer (Amanda Ritchie) tries to lure the eyes of a group of men to her body instead of the big screen TV playing the local football game. Their is also a ‘school-girl’ aerialist (Julia Kolosova) that will do things with a hula-hoop (or twenty) that you didn’t know where possible. The best comic relief comes from one of the clowns (Shannan Calcutt) who offers an alternative to breast implants, with Ziploc baggies filled with scotch! For the ladies, there is also an anything-but- standard strip tease from a cowboy (William Hulett) that could be the next Marlboro Man. Pushing the limits, we have a contortionist (Arslan Gusengadzhiev) that bends in ways that would make even the strongest of stomachs cringe and an S & M aerialist (Jill Crook) who moans orgasmically as she is suspended in bondage chains, climaxing through self-strangulation. “You’re not going to see this over at Donny and Marie,” shouts one of the performers and that is exactly the point.
This is not the show you bring your grandma or even your mother to (unless she’s a really cool 60’s loving hippie). It is a night meant for lovers and a younger, open-minded audience. As one audience member found out when Edie asked him, ‘Who are you here with,” and he replied meekly, “My sister”, you better have a sense of humor! If there is one sure bet that you can make in Vegas, it is that this show gets the audience involved. In the ‘orgy wheel of sexual positions’ that closes out the show Edie selected a young personal trainer (whose fiancé watched from the front row) and a middle-aged event planner from Florida and threw them in the mix! If you didn’t know your neighbor when you walked into the theater, you are sure to leave knowing them a bit better. When Edie asks, “What is everybody doing after this show tonight,” no one needs the answer said out loud!
For as far as it pushes the envelope, Zumanity is about the beauty of the human body and its nudity never crosses the line or falls in the category of tasteless. In fact, you practically forget the cast is mostly nude, albeit some of the most amazing costumes by French designer Thierry Mugler, because you are so intimately involved in the show. More importantly, it highlights the beauty of the human body in all its forms by featuring performers of all sizes, shapes, and colors.
This show could easily be responsible for the city’s favorite catch phrase, ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’. Let’s just say if Zumanity were a cocktail, this show’s recipe would be one shot burlesque, one shot cabaret, with a twist of naughty. Just how I like it!