Populated with performers who are supremely talented and supernaturally fit, Cirque du Soleil shows tend make us flabby, ordinary folks wish we were special too.
Well, good news: We already are.
The show features aerialists who look like midair dancers, trampoline daredevils who seem intent on launching themselves through the roof and airborne BMX riders who spin their bikes like tops beneath them, but what makes this edition so inspiring is its admonition that what makes you stick out from the crowd is what makes you exceptional.
Introduced in April 2017, “Volta” is Cirque’s 41st original production and 18th tent show, and it’s superbly crafted. The physical effort of each act is shaped into a mini-story in which drama incrementally intensifies, heightened by surging vocal and instrumental music and pinpoint lighting.
That precision is a Cirque specialty, but it’s also become a bit of a liability, registering as a vague disappointment that you haven’t been sufficiently surprised, even though everything you’ve seen seems to defy the laws of physics.
The acts of “Volta” are woven into a mostly wordless narrative set in a world we recognize, where grayish drones are hypnotized by glowing phone screens and obsessed with a TV talent show.
Keep your eyes on the talent show’s final contestant: a spinning, backflipping young guy (Joey Arrigo at Tuesday’s opening) who longs to be special even as he tries hard to dress and behave just as drably as everyone else. The façade slips on national TV, revealing a unicorn-like horn of hair sprouting from his fluffy forehead. Though humiliated at first, our hero soon finds himself befriended by a passel of rainbow-garbed free spirits who encourage him to take pride in his uniqueness.
Prompted by home-movie–like memories visible on giant video screens, the protagonist imagines letting his light shine, grabbing hold of the overhead lamp in his boyhood bedroom and (depicted, at this point, by Pawel Walczewski) executing graceful, sideways arabesques in the air.
He remembers riding his boyhood bicycle while his mother videotapes him, which turns into ballet with him (now portrayed by Nao Yoshida) maneuvering the bike through dazzling, one-wheeled balances and spins beside his dancing mother (Rosina Gil).
Eventually, he finds his place — while still standing out — among a band of fearless BMXers.
Along the way, trampoline artists dive from the second story and roof of a house-like structure, spinning sideways and doing backward somersaults, and gymnasts dive through rotating rings, flipping and corkscrewing through the narrow openings.
The show’s most astonishing moments, though, belong to Vanessa Ferreira Calado, who, in fully folded lotus position, is slowly hoisted aloft by a rope hooked to a ring coiffed into her topknot of hair. Once ascended, she performs what looks like a kathak dance routine, angular and sensual, then sets herself spinning in what seem like never-ending circles through the air.
This is what Cirque excels at but also, amid all of the technology and precision, sometimes loses track of: the exquisiteness of the individual.
Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Volta’
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 1:30 and 5:30 p.m. Sundays; schedule varies; ends March 8
Tickets: $42-$195; subject to change; discounts for children ages 2-12
Info: cirquedusoleil.com/volta, (877) 924-7783
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Also at OC Fair & Event Center, Costa Mesa, March 18-April 19