Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: Cirque du Soleil's KOOZA

A Treasure Box of Dazzle and Skill
By Lauren Yarger
Clowns, terrific music, dazzling costumes and amazing feats combine to create KOOZA, Cirque du Soleil’s 10th show to play in New York, this one under the big top on Randall’s Island Park.

The name KOOZA is inspired by the Sanskrit word “koza,” which means “box,” “chest” or “treasure,” and was chosen because one of the underlying concepts of the production is the idea of a “circus in a box.” The thrills that come out of this show’s box are countless.

The story from writer/director David Shiner involves The Trickster (Mike Tyus) bursting onto the scene like a jack-in-a-box right in front of The Innocent (Stephan Landry), whose journey brings him into contact with comic characters including a king (clown Gordon White), a pickpocket (Lee Thompson) and an obnoxious tourist and his bad dog (a large puppet). All of this takes place in front of a traveling tower called the Bataclan, designed by Stéphane Roy, which alters the configuration of the performance space as it moves. It also houses the terrific band (Seth Stachowski, leader) and singers performing Jean-François Côté’s music.

Clowns and acrobats (there are 53 performers in the show) interact with audience members and round out the action which is thrilling. Contortionists Julie Bergez, Natasha Patterson and Dasha Sovik give new meaning to the word flexible and put the “ow” in wow! (My back hurts just thinking about one move they did). Jimmy Ibarra and Carlos Marin Loaiza defy gravity and death in a dual spinning “Wheel of Death.” Their feats are so breathtaking that you might miss some other really excellent skills demonstrated, like the perfect toss to them of the jump ropes which they skip while whirling over your head.

There’s a high wire act, a trapeze, a duo unicycle act, a balancing act atop a tower of chairs, teeterboard tumbling and a juggler (Anthony Gatto) who has to be seen to be believed. “No way!” was the common response of audience members to his feats.

In addition to the demonstrations of physical skills, the ensemble numbers, special effects and costumes are dazzling (Serge Roy heads the creative process. Clarence Ford , choreography; Rogé Francoeur, props; Danny Zen, acrobatic equipment and rigging designer; Marie-Chantale Vaillancourt . costumes; Florence Cornet; makeup; Jonathan Deans and Leon Rothenberg, sound).

In one number, the group wears percussion instruments made out of molded carbon for "skeleton" costumes. They look and sound like bones when the performers hit them against each other to create a musical rhythm. In another scene, a "Rat Cape,” a costume made up of 150 fake fur rats with crystal eyes to catch the light creates the illusion that rats are running down a performer's body before disappearing into a trap door (it’s very creepy).

KOOZA runs through June 7 at Randall’s Island. Special buses run regularly and can be accessed from the 125th St. MetroNorth Station. For tickets, visit the show’s home site at

Christians might also like to know:
• The show contains some crass humor: the dog urinates on the audience; two male clowns kiss; one passes gas.
• The skeletons seemed a little scary to me for little kids, but my graphic-savvy son assures me that any child watching television or playing video games these days probably has seen much scarier.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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