Cirque du Soleil
's ninth show opened in 1996. It was born of the company's decision to do a darker, more realistic
show (as much as a circus can be) than before. Somehow, they made it work, and it ranks up with shows like Alegria
as one of the company's most acclaimed and beloved productions.
In Latin, "quidam" (pronounced "key-dahm") is a word meaning "nameless, faceless passerby". This is what adolescent girl Zoe feels like. The story begins in her home as she sadly tries to entertain herself, as her father reads the paper and her mother knits, each off in their own little world. Then a stranger arrives...a tall stranger who appears to have no head, and whom only Zoe appears to notice. The stranger — the
Quidam — leaves a little blue bowler hat behind as it departs, while two other strangers (bizarre emcee John and the merry, clownish Target) who entered as well stay behind. The hat seems to be magical, and Zoe puts it on. With that, everyone is transported into a sometimes-melancholy Magical Land
where Zoe will come to understand that every person in the world is a quidam to someone else, and that love and happiness stem from connecting and reconnecting with others...if only for a little while.
This show was filmed during its Amsterdam engagement in 1999, and at the end of 2010 was adapted into an arena tour that continues to tour the world to this day.
This show contains examples of:
- Animal Motifs: Zoe has a pet "bird" (a tiny balloon) in a cage in the opening scene, as per director Franco Dragone's typical invocation of bird imagery. Later, we meet the Aviator, who wears a pair of bony, featherless wings.
- Audience Participation: The current clown acts use audience volunteers.
- Bare Your Midriff: The handbalancer.
- Bittersweet Ending: As in so many stories that go Down the Rabbit Hole, in the end one must go back up...and Zoe is more reluctant than most to do so.
- Character Title: The first of only a few Cirque shows to use this trope (the others are ZAIA and ZED).
- City Shout Outs: More of a whisper: the newpaper Father is reading in the opening sequence is that of whatever city the show is performing in.
- Cover Version: Josh Groban covered the English-language version of "Let Me Fall".
- The Danza: The emcee's name stems from that of the role's originator, John Gilkey. Unusually for Cirque, the name has stuck through his replacements.
- Darker and Edgier: Done right. The ending can even be seen as a melancholy take on that of Le Cirque Réinventé.
- Down the Rabbit Hole: Unusual in that the heroine isn't the only one transported, but it is still very much her journey to take.
- Dramatic Thunder: The bowler hat being dropped and left behind in the opening sequence cues this effect.
- The Everyman: Zoe...and Quidam and the rest of the cast, as the point of the show is that everyone is an everyperson.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: The German wheel, diabolos, and aerial hoop acts.
- The Faceless: Quidam, due to apparently not having a head (or is it just that we're not seeing it?), and the Chiennes Blanches, white-clad folk who conceal their faces with little cowls.
- Hidden Depths: It seems this Magical Land brings them out where Zoe's boring parents are concerned. The Mother performs the aerial contortion in silk act. If this act cannot be performed, a juggling act is substituted...performed by The Father.
- It Will Never Catch On: According to the company's 20th anniversary book, a marketing executive who was to handle the show's San Francisco engagement doubted it would do well due to its darker nature. He was wrong.
- Large Ham: Three — John, the principal clown, and Boum-Boum.
- Long Runners: 15 years and counting as of 2012.
- Monster Clown: Boum-Boum fits this trope appearance-wise.
- Movie-Making Mess: The "film shoot" plays out this way thanks to its use of Audience Participation.
- Nice Hat: The means of travel between worlds.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: How Zoe initially feels.
- Original Cast Precedent: Broken with the Target. The character was originally played by a man but, perhaps because its gender isn't important, has since been played by both men and women.
- Parental Obliviousness: Again, only Zoe notices the arrival of Quidam and the others.
- People In White: The Chiennes Blanches.
- Plucky Comic Relief: John.
- Production Throwback: The opening announcement of the theater rules is broadcast over a radio that John adjusts. On his way to the "station" in question, we hear song snippets from the three previous Cirque shows that toured the U.S.: "Eclipse" from Nouvelle Experience, "Kumbalawe" from Saltimbanco, and the title song from Alegria. (The last one provokes a disgusted reaction from John.)
- Rewritten Pop Version: The soundtrack album's version of "Let Me Fall" is in English. This version also appeared in the Delirium concert tour.
- Series Mascot: The Target, these days.
- Set Switch Song: "Marelle".
- Sidekick: John and Target; at least the former is also an Older Sidekick.
- Sliding Scale of Silliness Versus Seriousness: This is still the most serious of Cirque's tours.
- Title Theme Tune: As in Alegria, it's the closing number.
- Troubled Child: Zoe.
- Urban Fantasy: The fantasy world isn't even all that different from the real one; the set is inspired by a railroad station, for instance.
- Zettai Ryouiki: Two young girls clad in short white dresses that join the dancers in the second half, and are prominently featured in the banquine.