By Kevin Zimmerman
If the Flying Wallendas attempted to stage a version of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” it would probably look a lot like Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna.”
The latest production from the French-Canadian performance troupe, which recently pitched its tent at Citi Field for a two-month run, combines the slightest slip of a story line, with girl-powered rock ’n’ roll music and jaw-dropping aerial stunts to create a crowd-pleasing theatrical experience.
Set on a mysterious island ruled by women, the show begins with Queen Prospera preparing her daughter, Miranda, for a coming-of-age ceremony.
The older woman removes a red, long-flowing cape from her outfit, then she places it in a vortex of wind, created by a circle of fans around the stage’s edge. She watches as the red cloth dances like a flame.
Miranda then slips into the oval and moves with the material as it soars and drops with the wind.
Eventually, Prospera works up a storm that shipwrecks a boat filled with sailors onto the shores of the island.
No surprise, one of the young sailors, named Romeo, falls for Miranda, and she for him, as soon as the two lay eyes upon each other.
The rest of the show revolves around a series of trials and tests the two young would-be lovers face before they can be together.
Of course, it could have been the story of Lucy and Ricky navigating their way through a set at the Copacabana, as long as the backup singers regularly perform more than 50 feet in the air.
But it’s not the story that attracts an audience to a Cirque du Soleil show. They are there to be wowed by contortionists, gymnasts and trapeze artists.
To that end, “Amaluna” does not disappoint.
Things start off slowly if still interestingly enough with one of the island goddesses who demonstrates her agility with the Hula hoop. She begins with one, then keeps adding more until she has five going in sync on her arms, legs and waist.
Another goddess climbs onto a hoop hanging from a wire and performs a series of twists and flips above the stage. As the hoop revolves in a circle and rises and falls, she continues her gymnastic show.
After that the tricks come quickly each one topping the last.
Much of the action occurs above the audience as performers fly through the air with the greatest of ease, but not on a traditional trapeze bar. Instead the aerialists wrap these heavy-duty bands — which are hooked up to a series of pulleys — around their wrists and hang on for dear life as they are hoisted above the stage.
But plenty of amazing feats occur on the surface of the stage — well, they begin on the ground anyway.
Two oversized sets of uneven parallel bars are rolled onto stage so a group of petite and agile gymnasts can perform an Olympics-on-steroids routine that has bodies tucked into tiny balls flying in all directions.
Although “Amaluna” celebrates the strength of women — and includes Cirque du Soleil’s first all-female band providing the show’s soundtrack — the guys are not completely left out of the fun.
The second act begins with the shipwrecked sailors playing with a giant see-saw sending each other soaring into the air. And Romeo earns his own show-stopping bit as he attempts to climb a large pole in hopes of finding Miranda, who was snatched away from his embrace.
As he climbs to the top, using only his hands to propel himself, Romeo contorts himself around the pole, barely remaining in contact with the object.
When he nears the top, he wraps his legs around and uses his arms to keep him in place. But then quickly, and with an audible gasp from the crowd, he eases his gripe and plummets toward the ground, stopping himself at the last possible second.
Near the end of the show, the character Cali, a half-man half-lizard creature, takes center stage and performs a juggling act that at one point includes a flaming ball.
The story wraps up with a nice bit of symmetry as the two young lovers go off to begin their lives together, Prospera removes a blue cape and places it into the wind vortex where it dances and flits about the stage.
If You Go
Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna”
When: Through May 18
Where: Citi Field, 123-01 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing
Cost: $55-$145/adults, $45-$135/children, Family four packs starting at $230
Contact: (800) 450-1480