A clipping from the advertisement of the show. Courtesy of Cirque Du Soleil

Thursday, March 16 was one to remember in Hartford as droves of people traveled to the XL Center to watch the opening night of TORUK: The First Flight, a live show performed by none other than Cirque Du Soleil. The Live Wire was fortunate enough to send three of our staffers to the first performance in Hartford to give their reviews of the show. Since each member had a good amount to say, we’ve broken it up into sections based on their own perspectives.

From the perspective of Giovanni Ramirez – Live Wire Staff Writer:
As someone who has never been to a Cirque Du Soleil show, I expected mostly what I saw in trailers and commercials I’d seen on TV; people dangling from ropes made from ribbons without a safety net and doing amazing tricks. I was thankfully not only safe from any sort of disappointment, I was left in awe. The way the performers danced around the various stages, flowing between them like they were just everyday objects. The colors that illuminated the stages, changing and shifting to fit the mood. A forest scene would transition and shift into a raging river then a river in a misty mountain range, always fitting the mood and scene so wonderfully. The music tracks that they had enhanced the mood and even gave further details to what one was seeing that neither words nor body language could perfectly describe.

Past the performance quality was the story. The entire show is presented as a prequel to James Cameron’s 2009 Avatar movie. The main premise based around the first Na’vi, the Blue aliens in the show and move focus on who rode one of the greatest predators of their world; the Toruk. These majestic beasts can be best described as being similar to pterodactyls. The story, without many spoilers, presents us a duo at the start, then a trio who become the main characters that we follow throughout. Although they speak in a language different from our own, we can still see how they each grow, develop and change throughout. The narration given of course helps, but the most the Storyteller generally does is help describe what is most important such as various characters and pieces of plot or items and locations. The character development is seen most in their actions and interactions, what they do and, how you get to see them do such incredible things even if it simply is fantasy.

Through it all, I truly enjoyed the show. It was my first time at any sort of Cirque Du Soleil show, and I most certainly liked it. The performances, mixed with music and special/practical effects were amazing. The fact that, so many people worked on this, and when the show ended and you see the crew that helped behind the scenes made it all the better to watch. Overall, apart from a minor audio cutout and a few odd angles, the show was perfect.
10/10 performance I would enjoy watching once more.

From the perspective of James Lancy – Live Wire Editor in Chief:
I have indeed seen a few Cirque Du Soleil shows before, but they were all recorded on DVD and presented in a classroom setting as required watching. You get a feeling of wonder, but it pales in comparison to watching it live. Mix the wonder of Cirque with the amazing story devices and visuals of James Cameron’s Avatar and you have a passionate display of acrobatics and gut wrenching music that is TORUK: The First Flight. It amazes me how the directors of the show were able to drive the story along so well with as small of a space that they had to work with. The costumes were amazing, the props were pretty spot on and the story along with the visuals transported the viewer back to the world that the humans called Pandora.

Despite what the humans from the Avatar movie thought of the planet, it was beautiful even if it was naturally deadly to those who didn’t belong. From the Tree of Souls to the Hallelujah Mountains, they were all sights to behold. The sights were ingeniously designed into the set and the transitions seemed flawless. And the production company thought of everything all the way down to audience participation. Attendees could download a free app as part of the experience and become a part of the show with their smartphones. During the nighttime scene where stars were visible, members of the audience held up their smartphones and added to the starry sky. When a scene called for stormy weather, camera flashes became lightning. After the show, you could play with a Woodsprite, otherwise known as a seed from the Tree of Souls.

It was certainly a wonderful experience. 10/10 would see again just to catch more details of the story.

From the perspective of Christopher DiBella – Live Wire Photographer and Staff Writer:
Having never seen a Cirque Du Soleil show before, I did not have set expectations going in. I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. The set design especially struck me as amazing, as during the course of the show it changed from rocky cliffs, an undergrowth ridden jungle, a sea shore and other exotic locations. However, the set layout itself never really changed. Bushes and exotic flowers bloomed out of nowhere, populating the layout each time in a way that felt completely different from the previous location. Alien animals and predators creeped out of the backdrop to interact with the main characters, and all in a way which felt organic to the setting.

While the typical Cirque Du Soleil stunts and physical feats were present, there were also a surprising number of intricately puppeteered creatures and little locational details which really brought the world of Pandora to life on the stage. In fact, something which I noticed during the course of the show was the set and choreography seems designed so that no matter what angle you sit to watch the show, you can still see what is going on. For example, the large rocky plateau at the middle of the stage is just tall enough that you can always see enough of the actors over the top of it that you can tell what is going on. Also, if a detail such as a drummer or a plant was present on one side of the stage, it was almost always present on the opposite side so that the other side could tell what was making that noise.

The story itself is a rather standard adventure/quest story simply set in an alien world (a good period of time before the Avatar film takes place), but I did find it impressive how the entire story is told without dialog, aside from narration from an elder Na’vi to explain what is going on. I did not find myself getting too attached to the characters, but I could certainly appreciate the effort which has clearly gone into every grain of dirt that goes into convincingly transporting you to the world of Pandora on the stage. From the drum heavy emotional music, the intricate alien backdrops, the fantastic use of color and lighting to set the mood, to the costume design which manages to make different actors and characters stand out when otherwise they could easily just have been a group of dancers in identical blue costumes. The whole show is a feast for the eyes from just about any angle.

For more information on the show and to get tickets, visit their website.