Spectacle there is in abundance and performers are as spectacularly multitalented as you’d expect from Cirque Du Soleil, but the stadium-scale TORUK – The First Flight, now making a four-day stop at The Forum, is likely to prove a letdown to both Cirque fans and those expecting see James Cameron’s Avatar live on stage.
Though “inspired by” the 2009 science-fiction epic and set on the planet Pandora, TORUK – The First Flight features an entirely new cast of characters and a storyline described thusly:
“When a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, Ralu and Entu, two Omatikaya boys on the brink of adulthood, fearlessly decide to take matters into their own hands. Upon learning that Toruk can help them save the Tree of Souls, they set out, together with their newfound friend Tsyal, on a quest high up in the Floating Mountains to find the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Prophecy is fulfilled when a pure soul rises among the clans to ride Toruk for the first time and save the Na’vi from a terrible fate.”
If this sounds more than a bit ponderous and potentially puzzling, it is, and despite English-language narration linking the production’s twenty scenes, Pandoran-language dialog of which there is plenty insures that even the most multilingual in the audience will have to rely on guesswork to figure out what Ralu and Entu and Tsyal have on their minds.
Minus the emotional punch of Cameron’s movie script, TORUK – The First Flight must rely on Cirque Du Soleil magic to hold an audience in its spell, and here too it fails to hit the mark.
Still, gravity-defying aerial feats, including drums beat high above the Forum stage, a giant loom described as “weaving the connections between all living things,” flowers taking flight, and acrobatics in abundance add up to spectacle overload minus the intimacy that a less mammoth setting than the Forum would provide.
TORUK – The First Flight does score sky-high marks for puppetry, whether Lion King-like “viperwolves” or the flying dragon Toruk that gives the production its name.
Design elements are dazzlers as well, though the drumbeat-heavy new-agey soundtrack quickly proves monotonous.
Audiences expecting the kind of specialty acts and endlessly varied design that made Cirque Du Soleil TOTEM such a treat several years back may find TORUK more than a bit of a yawn, and with even $155 seats placing ticketholders at a considerable distance from the performers, parking at $25 a slot, and concession priced equally astronomically, it might be smartest just to wait for the DVD.
The Forum, 3900 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood.
January 12, 2107
Photos: Errisson Lawrence