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Originally published Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 1:30 PM

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Review: Cirque du Soleil's 'Kooza' is more laughs and thrills than poetry and whimsy

Cirque du Soleil's show at Marymoor Park, "Kooza," is not one of the more whimsical and poetical of Cirque shows. It's meat and potatoes — or, rather, yuks and thrills. And that's plenty to hold the attention of circus-goers of all ages.

Seattle Times theater critic


Cirque du Soleil's 'Kooza'

Through July 11, Marymoor Park, Redmond; $31.50-$125 regular admission and $175-$250 VIP Tapis Rouge tickets (800-450-1480 or


It was her first circus, and my 7-year old companion at Cirque du Soleil's "Kooza" was adamant.

She wanted animals, preferably a dog act. I explained that the world-famous Cirque du Soleil does astounding things with just humans, and a lot of people believe animals shouldn't be cooped up in a circus, anyway. She did not budge.

Would she come around, and succumb to chills and thrills of this latest Cirque spectacular, which just opened a run at Marymoor Park in Redmond?

The opening number with an elaborately dressed corps de Soleil, with painted faces, and the show's two guides — a seductive dancer-trickster in a rainbow-striped suit, and a wide-eyed little guy with a kite — certainly commanded her interest. And an astonishing contortion act, with three spaghetti-spined young women arranging themselves in impossible body sculptures, wowed her.

The fierce-looking, ponytailed trapeze artist, swinging on high by one hand and the tops of her feet, also impressed. And the couple doing feats on a unicycle reminded her of her big brother, who also likes to tool around on one wheel.

The clowns? Well, they are devious pratfallers, a little lewd and quite irresistible. Given that "Kooza" was written and directed by a swell, edgy funnyman (former Cirque du Soleil clown David Shine), these are not sweet, fuzzy jesters.

They are bawdy imps who, in the tradition of ancient farce, live to disturb the peace and annoy The King (a sort of head clown, who zaps ne'er-do-wells with a mock stun gun and is even more of an idiot than his subjects).

"Kooza" is, by the way, is not one of the more whimsical and poetical of Cirque shows. It's meat and potatoes — or, rather, yuks and thrills.

One big thrill for my friend: those brave guys who made us gasp as they rode bicycles, fenced and played leapfrog way up on the double high wire.

But this kid was a tough sell. She still wanted animals. Sure, sure, she oohed and ahhed at the Chinese gymnast balanced atop a tower of chairs. And having rocked a hula hoop herself, she appreciated the sight of a woman whirling multiple gleaming steel hoops.

That was pronounced "Freaky!" (a favorite accolade of the night). The other high term of praise ("Scary!") went to the Wheel of Death act, in which two acrobats in devil horns jog, leap, jump and fling themselves inside and on the rims of a contraption resembling a giant double hamster wheel in furious motion. This routine is like Sisyphus in hell, and it's a scorcher.

Yet in the end, what did my bright-eyed companion (who stayed wide-awake and alert through "Kooza's" entire 2 ½ hours) rank as her favorite bits?

She loved the live band with all the brass and the two world-beat divas. And those fencing aerialists.

But highest on her list was the dog. Well, actually, a large person (or two small ones?) in a very big, shaggy dog suit with a floppy red tongue. A dog that suddenly lifts its leg and relieves itself with a long stream of what we all hoped was water, aimed right at the audience.

She wanted a pooch. That one did the trick.

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