Arts & Theater

Review: ‘Varekai’ is classic Cirque du Soleil

“Varekai” features Cirque du Soleil’s signature stunning acrobatics and extravagantlycolorful costumes.
“Varekai” features Cirque du Soleil’s signature stunning acrobatics and extravagantlycolorful costumes. Courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil’s exotic “Varekai” dropped into Sleep Train Arena for a weekend of performances, featuring the company’s signature stunning acrobatics and classic European-style clowning – all framed by a slight narrative.

Here Icarus, the boy whose father created wings for him, drops to Earth in an enchanted rain forest. At first Icarus struggles with adapting to and understanding the strange new world, but eventually he adapts so well that he marries the most beautiful woman creature there.

“Varekai” has been one of Cirque du Soleil’s most enduring productions. It opened in 2002 and has been performed in 70 cities around the world since. The extravagantly colorful costumes take center stage here, and the live band and vocalists accompanying the acts give the show a visceral momentum.

The show takes its time developing, allowing a clown-like character known as The Skywatcher to go through an elaborate and elegant physical comedy set piece before Icarus upsets the balance of the community. Icarus has a dance-like sequence in an aerial net, and then the various acrobat acts move on and off the stage in crafted precision.

All of the acts present performers with extraordinary talents, not the least of which were physical strength and flexibility. Some of the stand-outs:

▪ The Icarian Games: acrobats tossing each other about while in impossibly contorted positions.

▪ Aerial straps: a pair of acrobats swinging and sailing above the stage and audience in the style of trapeze artists.

▪ Cane balancing: a young woman contorting her torso into extreme angles while balanced on a series of canes using her feet and hands.

▪ Russian swings: acrobats vaulting off the swings, spinning and twirling like Olympic platform divers.

The running gags of a pair of clowns, Joanna and Steven, are accomplished through clever physical comedy. Steven also has a great comic bit as he chases an errant spotlight while trying to croon a romantic Italian ballad.

The story of Icarus receives a much more gauzy, soft treatment here than in the original telling, but the thoroughly entertaining show feels like classic Cirque du Soleil.

Call The Bee’s Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120. Follow him on Twitter @marcuscrowder.


What: Cirque de Soleil’s acrobatics and classic clowning framed by a loose retelling of the Icarus myth

When: 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sunday, April 12

Where: Sleep Train Arena (1 Sports Parkway, Sacramento)

Cost: $39.25-$160

Information:, (800) 745-3000

Running time: Two hours and 25 minutes including one intermission.

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