La Soiree. Do you want to get intimate with the Circus?
While we waited to be let into the theatre, the staff handed out little individual popcorn packages...for FREE! It seemed too good to be true...until I stuffed my face in two seconds flat and realized one thing: I was really thirsty. Aha. So the popcorn was all part of their plan to make us buy overpriced drinks. Very clever... there was no way I was gonna spend money on water, so I opted for a drink from the water fountain downstairs. Score one for the native New Yorker!
The seating arrangements were general admission so the second the doors were opened an entire mob of people tried to elbow and shove their way to the front. Having long ago mastered the art of weaving in between crowds (See, tourists... you're good for something!), I had no trouble securing two seats directly in front of the tiny stage. Score two for the native New Yorker!
The entire theatre was bathed in this warm red glow which gave everything a surreal look. While our eyes adjusted to this, two men in suits hopped onto the small round platform, each carrying an umbrella. A lamp-post was placed in the center of the platform and "Singing in the Rain" started to play. Right when I wondered, "Where are they going with this?", one of the men began to seemingly walk on air while holding onto the lamp-post with one hand! That must have taken an incredible amount of strength, but this guy didn't show it. He sped up the pace, until he was running on air around the street-light, and then for effect he popped open his umbrella and twirled it, all the while still supporting all his weight with one hand. But that was just the beginning!
The other guy, who until this time had been reading the newspaper, ditched his reading material and joined his buddy. So now there were two suave guys in suits running in air in different directions. How could they not be tired? They didn't even appear to be sweating. In unison, the men gracefully leapt off of the streetlight to thunderous applause. But they weren't even close to done! They proceeded to demonstrate their freak-of-nature-like strength with various complicated lifts, the coolest of which consisted of one guy balancing upside-down on top of the other guy's head! How is that even a thing that humans can do?! And then they started to strip, and the events on stage got much more...shall we say...fun ;) The conclusion to their act was them clad in nothing but speedos with the British flag on the back. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. British! As if they weren't remarkable enough as is, let's add a British accent!
The Brits made their exit and just in time, too, because a woman on roller-skates with about 20 hula hoops literally rolled into the center of the stage. She seemed very distressed and not at all confident on those skates, so in an attempt to lighten her load she rid herself of her precious cargo by throwing the hula hoops at the people in the audience! I caught about 3 of them and the rest were distributed pretty evenly throughout the crowd. How she made it onto the little platform in those skates without crashing, I will never know. But once she did she looked irritated and she gestured at us to throw her a few hula hoops. We continued following her silent instructions until she made use of all 20 hula hoops at once! Eventually she swapped the normal hula hoops for light-up ones which were more awesome in every way.
This lady in a horrendous yellow dress and pancake make-up came on stage and asked the audience if anyone knew how to read. There was a tangible hesitation amongst the audience. Even I was a little unsure about the whole thing. Some part of me was just convinced that she'd have the volunteer read something really inappropriate, and I did not want that person to me. The hesitation lasted too long for this woman's taste, and so she selected a man in the very back and pulled him onto the platform. The poor guy didn't have much of a say in the matter. The volunteer (whom I was already jealous of) worked for Fresh Direct and was a terrific sport about everything. The woman in yellow handed him a typed up note card and a microphone and he was instructed to read the introduction that the woman had composed for herself. The "introduction," if you could call it that, was Shakespeare! I was mentally kicking myself for not raising my hand. Mr. Fresh Direct read off of the card, "But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and [insert woman in yellow's name here] is the sun." When the woman re-made her entrance, she was covered in giant post-it notes with typed up directions for Mr. Fresh Direct to follow, like "Sing" or "Open this," and ultimately the two hilariously mouthed the words to "Maria" from West Side Story while the song from the movie played in the background.
After intermission, the staff started spreading this massive sheet of plastic around the front row. When I looked at them questioningly, one of the men replied, "So you don't get wet." Wait a second, wet?! Are we going to be sprayed with a hose or something? This is what I get for sitting in the front row... But one of those old-fashioned claw-foot bathtubs was placed on the platform, already filled with water. Uh oh. And another well-muscled-man wearing only a pair of tight jeans climbed into the tub, getting drenched. Then a thick sheet lowered from the ceiling and the man wound the fabric around his hands and feet, securing himself above all of our heads. And from up where he was he shook out his hair like a shaggy dog, wetting everybody in the vicinity. Oh! That's why we have the plastic. So the plastic went way up all around the front row, and through the transparent sheet I watched this guy perform some truly stunning aerial skills. He ended his act by filling his mouth with some of the water from the tub, and then once he'd reached enough height, he sprayed us, fountain-style. As we clapped and cheered for him, he thanked us genuinely, wooing us again with his...you guessed it...British accent!
What is so special about La Soiree was its intimacy. In any of the times I've been to the circus in the past, everything was done in a large space and while the feats performed were undoubtedly amazing, I still felt removed from the acts because I physically was so removed from them. In this space, literally within spitting range, there was no room for any detachment, and we were fully immersed.