The magic of ‘Corteo’ hits the WFCU Centre

The stage is set for Cirque du Soleil's 'Corteo' at the WFCU Centre, May 15, 2019. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

The “magic circus” comes to Windsor this Victoria Day weekend with a popular arena-style production.

Cirque du Soleil, which has been delighting and stunning audiences worldwide since its beginning in Montreal in 1984, hits the WFCU Centre for the production of ‘Corteo’, a two-hour presentation featuring dancers, acrobats, and gymnasts from all over the world. Members of the media, along with gymnasts from Alpha Gymnastics Academy in Windsor, sat in on a sneak preview Wednesday.

The production features 52 cast members from 18 countries, including Canada, the US, UK, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Belgium, France, Belarus and others. The corresponding crew responsible for the behind-the-scenes action consists of another 60 people.

Performing in Cirque is a lifelong dream come true for juggler John Josln, who told he was inspired by watching a Cirque production on television in his native Finland.

“I was 10 years old. I saw Cirque du Soleil on TV, and there was something about the juggler on the show that made me like ‘Wow, I need to start doing that,'” said Josln. “When the show was done I went to my backyard with three tennis balls, started practising, and now I’ve been juggling since then.”

“Corteo”, which is the Italian word for cortege, or procession, is the story of a clown who dreams of his own funeral, with the twist being a carnival setting. The other cast members portray clowns from other circuses who have come from far and wide to pay last respects in what publicist Maxwell Batista calls a “celebration of life”. He said the setting of this arena-style show is different from other Cirque productions.

“The design is unique from any other show because it’s in the middle of the arena, and we have the audience sitting on both sides of the stage,” said Batista. “It is made like this to give the audience the perspective of the actor. So when there is something extraordinary happening on stage, you can see the reaction of the people on the other side.”

This touring production requires 20 semi trucks to carry all of the set pieces, gymnastics equipment, costumes, props, lighting, soundboards and other apparatus. Batista said it takes 12 hours to set up the stage and backstage areas for the performance run, and they hire Windsor-Essex workers to assist. After the final performance Sunday night, the stage will be dismantled in three-and-a-half hours, packed up, and moved to the next stop on the tour, which is Hamilton.

“Corteo” opened Wednesday night at the WFCU Centre and runs through Sunday. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday night, 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, then 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at the WFCU Centre box office or by visiting the official website.