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CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: ‘Avatar’ meets Cirque du Soleil in ‘Toruk — The First Flight’

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STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
bbingaman@21st-centurymedia.com
@brianbingaman on Twitter
In case you missed it, Cirque du Soleil’s “Toruk — The First Flight” made one of its first U.S. performances in late 2015 at Allentown’s PPL Center.
Inspired by James Cameron’s movie “Avatar,” “Toruk” will make its Philadelphia premiere March 8-12 at the Wells Fargo Center.
Will it have the Na’vi?
Yes. The story takes place on the moon of Pandora, thousands of years before the events of “Avatar,” with new characters, clans and beasts. The creative team consulted with Cameron.
This being Cirque du Soleil, are they making the Na’vi circus performers, or what?
This is likely going to be different than what you’ve seen from Cirque before. There’s a Storyteller character, with acrobatics supporting the story, and there will be dialogue (albeit in the fictitious Na’vi language). The Storyteller’s narration will be in English, making it easy to follow.
There’s a performance piece with kites. There will be optical multimedia projections, making you feel like you’re on Pandora. Special effects include an earthquake, a volcano eruption, waves that start in the audience before washing up on shore on stage, and a starry sky projected all over the arena, turning it into an upside-down planetarium.
There will also be an SAP app for smartphones will enable audience members to be a part of the action before, during and after the performance. Download the app at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/toruk-the-first-flight/id1060239115?mt=8.
Will the Na’vi be CGI like the movie?
No. There’s an ensemble cast of flesh and blood performers with blue-toned facial make-up, as well as state of the art puppets, and puppeteers equipped with microphones that make the animal sounds.
What kind of animals are in the show?
There are 16 puppets that represent the creatures of Pandora — six Viperwolves, three Direhorses, three Austrapedes, one Turtapede, two swarms of Woodsprites, and one Toruk, an oversized marionette with a 40-foot wingspan. Six puppeteers on the ground control the creature’s movement. One puppeteer controls the head, two direct the shoulders, two work the wings and one controls the tail.
What’s this going to look like at the Wells Fargo Center?
The stage is 85 by 162 feet, and is composed of five main elements that comprise the set, ranging from tropical rainforest and equatorial desert to boreal forest, mountains, ocean shorelines, wetlands, and archipelago (representing the Na’vi’s connection to nature).
How much are the tickets?
Prices range from $42-$140; $33.50-$112 for children 2-12; $38-$81 for students, seniors and military; $33.50-$78.50 for a family four-pack. Visit www.wellsfargocenterphilly.com or call (215) 336-3600. The Wells Fargo Center is at 3601 S. Broad St., Philadelphia. Also, check out www.cirquedusoleil.com and www.facebook.com/torukthefirstflight.
When are the performances?
7:30 p.m. March 8-9, 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. March 10, 4 and 8 p.m. March 11, 1 and 5 p.m. March 12.

 

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