Cirque du Soleil - Kurios

Like all Cirque shows, you can expect an astonishing international consortium of fantastically costumed contortionists, acrobats, aerialists and illusionists with Cirque du Soleil's new performance "Kurios - Cabinet of Curiosities," opening Thursday, August 6 at the United Center.

This massive, 2,600 capacity big top show, the only Midwest stop of its tour, marks four years since Cirque du Soleil last arrived in Chicago. Though the performance takes place in United Center's parking lot, it's promised that it will feel like it's right inside the 20,000+ capcity arena.  

Creator Michel Laprise says "Kurios" is an altogether different beast from the previous Cirque shows as well as a reaction to those who say that Cirque productions have gotten predictable. We talked to Laprise about how those criticisms shaped Kurios, why he's sending a few lucky audience members onto a sky-high onstage suspension bridge, and what that titular cabinet contains.

Cirque already has shows that are hugely successful playing all over the world. Why spend millions making a new one instead of touring a proven hit?

Laprise: We always take comment cards after each show. A few years ago, I noticed that we were getting a fair amount saying we'd gotten predictable. People who loved previous shows were saying they might skip it next time. I knew we had to find new ways to surprise them. We started over 30 years ago as street performers, and when you're performing on the streets you have to have something incredibly weird or intense - otherwise people just keep walking. With "Kurios" I wanted to get back to our origins. I wanted the purity and the daring of that street performance aesthetic.

Cirque du Soleil - Kurios

How does "Kurious" do that, get back to that aesthetic?

ML: I don't want to give away the show. But here's two things we're doing that our engineering team initially said were impossible either in terms of physics of logistics or both. Some people in the audience will have to cross a bridge to get to their seats. It starts backstage, crosses the stage and is pretty high up. We've also got performers on top of the tent - outside - before the show starts. Both of these things changed the logistics of the whole show. You've got to get people up and then back down in the very short time frame right before the performance starts. We spent over a year figuring out the physics and the safety protocol.

Cirque du Soleil - Kurios

Does Kurios tell a story of any kind?

ML: There's a man - the Seeker - who believes there's an invisible dimension where dreams rest until they're actually dreamt. And where all the crazy ideas that people have abandoned go. So we see the Seeker in his laboratory at the top of the show, when the entities from this invisible dimension come into our dimension. He's got this cabinet of curios collected from travelling the world - things that are mysterious and beautiful. They all come to life.

It's a very big show, lots of spectacle, but I think this central figure gives it a humanism. And optimism. I want people to leave believing it is possible to create, that want seems overwhelming or impossible - maybe it's not.

Cirque du Soleil's "Kurios - Cabinet of Curiosities" runs Thursday, August 6 through Sunday, Sept. 20 under the chapiteau in the United Center parking lot, 1901 W. Madison. Tickets start at $35. For more information, go to cirquedusoleil.com/kurios or call 877/924-7783.