Corteo might not be the flashiest performance from Cirque du Soleil, but it may well be my favorite. Filled with fun acts that feel more like magic than circus acts, Corteo takes you both back in time and into a dream.
Playing at arenas around the Bay Area starting with San Jose’s Shark Tank (SAP Center), the show begins the moment you enter with a unique and stunning stage. Small portions of the arena are sectioned off on either side of the ice so that two banks of audiences surround a rotating circular stage.
The premise of the show is the strongest and most prominent of the Cirque shows I’ve seen – and also the most dubious pretense on paper; an old Circus clown has a dream of his own death and funeral. Not a theme that screams a fun night out. But, amazingly, it is. The show begins with the entire company of a 1930s circus coming to celebrate the main character’s life, and entertain us in the process. From death-defying flying pole dancing to a ringmaster who whistles Mozart, the show is fun. It somehow manages to mix the traditional circus acts seamlessly into a comical and heartfelt story about a man reminiscing about his extraordinary life in the circus.
The staging is amazing, involving the audiences on opposite sides of the performers, incredible flying acts, and a rotating stage. The musicians are all live and in costume, moving around the stage and into little alcoves beside the audience to create a one-of-a-kind experience.
The main character, Mauro the Dreamer Clown, is incredible, making the tone of the show stay lighthearted, fun and upbeat. Even as an angel gifts him with wings, he jokes that he hopes they are the right size… extra-extra large! Because most of the show revolves around physical performances, the dialogue of the show is done in a fluid mix of English, Italian and other languages. This gives you enough of an understanding to follow the jokes and enjoy the story, while keeping the focus on movement and action of these incredible performers, rather than words.
Corteo is a delightful dream of a show that allows you to marvel at feats of acrobatics and skill while taking a delightful trip through the dream of a clown. By the end, you will feel like you were invited to a party thrown by circus performers from 100 years ago, where everyone is just having fun and showing off and is delighted to see you again.
Presented by Cirque du Soleil
Through: August 13, 2023 in San Jose; August 20, 2023 in Oakland; August 27, 2023 in San Francisco
Where: SAP Center in San Jose, Oakland Arena in Oakland, and the Case Center in San Francisco