Alegria is the eighth Cirque du Soleil production, the original staging of which launched in 1994 — and ran until the end of 2013 — as the company's 10th anniversary tour. The title is a Spanish word meaning "joy despite great sorrow", commonly used at funerals. Notable acrobatic segments include synchronized trapeze, manipulation, a fire-knife dance, fast track, and Russian bars.
The All There in the Manual backstory: A kingdom has lost its ruler; there is no heir. Power is up for grabs, and it comes down to a struggle between the old order of pampered, selfish nobles (led by the sinister jester/emcee Fleur) and a new one of loving, giving youths.
The most seriously-themed show Cirque had mounted up to that point but (as ever) not without hope, it cemented the company's popularity and acclaim. Its soundtrack remains their biggest seller to date. It mostly toured as a tent show from 1994-2009, but for a two year period (1999-2000) it performed as a resident show at the Beau Rivage casino in Biloxi, Mississippi (owner Steve Wynn had hoped it would be the sensation that Mystere had been in Las Vegas). In mid-2009, it relaunched as an arena show and toured through 2013.
In 2018, the show was revived as a tent tour to mark its 25th anniversary.
In 1998, writer-director Franco Dragone (via a screenplay by Rudy Barichello) helmed a dramatic film of the same title, which incorporates the live show, its characters, and themes into a larger story. The protagonists are a street mime, Frac, and his urchin friend Momo — the former is grieving over a lost love; the latter is one of many unwanted children forced into the employ of the cruel Marcello, who forces them to tend and sell roses for him. One night Frac attempts to commit suicide by lying on railroad tracks as a train approaches — he is only stopped from doing so when Momo joins him with the same intent. The train comes to a halt and as the circus performers who were on it emerge to find out what happened, Frac falls in Love at First Sight with their beautiful singer, who is also the daughter of the boss/Fleur performer (played by Frank Langella). The feeling is mutual, and from here Frac tries to find a way to woo her — and learn her name! — despite her father's misgivings; this eventually converges with Momo's struggle to liberate himself and the other children. The film was an independent effort that didn't get much theatrical distribution (just Canada and a few European countries) and is largely unmentioned by Cirque itself or its fanbase, but warranted a DVD release.
The actual show was filmed during its Sydney, Australia engagement in 2001 and subsequently given a DVD release.
This show contains examples of:
- Animal Motifs: Birds and/or bird-evoking imagery appear in most of Dragone's Cirque shows from Saltimbanco onwards, but especially in this one: the nobles are known as "The Nostalgic Old Birds", the Nymphs often appear and pose with large feather wings, and the "Querer" sequence features a large mechanical bird descending from the rafters.
- Aristocrats Are Evil: The Nostalgic Old Birds.
- Audience Participation: Twice in Act Two — the White Singer dances with a male audience member during "The Ball", and another man is brought up to help the clowns with their take on the Russian bars segment. As well, various characters interact with people in the front rows from the preshow onward.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Played straight with most of the characters, but avoided with the evil Black Singer and the kindhearted but shabby clowns.
- Big Fun: Tamir is rotund, sweet, and jolly.
- Bilingual Bonus: The songs "Alegria", "Vai Vedrai", "Valsapena", and "Querer".
- Color-Coded Characters: The White and Black Singers individually represent the good and bad qualities of the old order; only costume and hair color differentiates them visually. Look below for more specific color-coding...
- Costume Porn: This is one of the most lavishly costumed Cirque shows, especially among the tours.
- Dances and Balls: The opening scene of Act Two is known as "The Ball".
- Dedication: In the program, there's a deeply sarcastic, detailed one "thanking" all those who oppress others.
- Empathic Environment: The Act One closer is a clown act known as "Snowstorm", in which the lonesome protagonist winds up having his heart broken. It begins to snow as he sadly walks alone; suddenly the wind kicks up and "snow" (paper) flies everywhere.
- Fleur/Tamir (Both are clownish figures, but the former is wicked and the latter kindly)
- The Nostalgic Old Birds/The Nymphs and the Angels (Elderly, decaying, and wicked versus young, beautiful, and gentle)
- The Nostalgic Old Birds/The Bronx (Impotent ruling class versus youthful rebels — the point of the power track act)
- The White Singer/The Black Singer (Good versus evil)
- Gentle Giant: From 1994-2004, the show had a strongman act; the performer's character was this.
- Gold and White Are Divine: Thus the Angels and the good-hearted Tamir wear these colors.
- Heavenly Blue: The primary costume color for the Nymphs and the aerial high bar performers.
- Incendiary Exponent: The fire-knife dance.
- The Ingenue: The White Singer, so much. Beautiful, youthful, everyone adores her, and she has a touch of mischief in her as she brings a man from the audience onstage to dance with her at the start of Act Two.
- I Was Quite a Looker: The cyr wheel performer's character turns out to be a youthful reflection of an Old Bird as seen in a "mirror" (the wheel).
- La Résistance: The Bronx.
- Long-Runners: Close to 20 years for the original staging.
- Love Letter Lunacy: Variation — in an Act Two transitional bit, one of the clowns wants to give the White Singer a love letter (you can tell it's one because a little red heart-shaped balloon is attached to it), but is too shy to do so himself. He gives it to Fleur to deliver, but he'd rather keep it, and soon it's passing among a few other characters who want it as well before returning to its writer. He gives it to her as the show ends, and she accepts it.
- Monster Clown: Fleur, quite intentionally, may be the purest example of this trope in Cirque.
- Nostalgia Filter: The Nostalgic Old Birds kinda live out this trope with regards to themselves, via their mirrors. They have no glass in them, so their "reflections" must be purely imaginary...this is expanded upon in the cyr wheel act (see I Was Quite a Looker).
- Pimped-Out Dress: The Nostalgic Old Birds' outfits (scroll down page), which verge on parody.
- Re-Cut: The Beau Rivage version dropped the intermission and a few acts to bring the runtime down to 90 minutes, the typical length of a resident Cirque show. (As a tour, the show runs about two hours plus a twenty minute intermission.)
- Red and Black and Evil All Over: The primary colors in Fleur's costume.
- Rewritten Pop Version / Rearrange the Song: Beyond "Novo Alegria", Delirum featured "Alone", a variation on "Querer". (Its entirely new English lyrics were about miserable loneliness, whereas the original's were about how joyous love can be.)
- Self-Parody: The Russian bars act is followed by two of the clowns mounting their own version of it, complete with applause-baiting posing to punctuate their feats. In a briefer gag earlier in the show, the third clown tries to impress the audience with his version of the fire-knife dance (using a candle instead of a flaming baton).
- Set Switch Song: "Jeux d'Enfants" and "Querer".
- Shadow Archetype: The Black Singer, whom the website notes is the alter ego of the White Singer. A fan writing about a performance of the show noted that she literally followed the White Singer in the opening procession — a Living Shadow, perhaps?
- Singing Simlish: Aside from the title song and those listed under Bilingual Bonus, all the songs are this.
- Speedy Techno Remake: Swedish trance artist Jonatan F. did a remix/remake of the eponymous song.
- Succession Crisis: The backstory.
- Title Theme Tune
- True Blue Femininity: The Nymphs, all of whom are female, wear blue.
- Villainous Cheekbones: Via makeup or masks, Fleur and some of the Nostalgic Old Birds have these.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: The handbalancing, flying man, and aerial high bar performers. Older acts that featured these were strong man and aerial cube (the latter now serves this function in Mystère). The fire spinners and cyr wheel performer also have most of their chests exposed. (Whew.)
The movie it inspired also contains examples of:
- The Alcoholic: Old Taps.
- All Part of the Show: Frac, disguised as one of the Nostalgic Old Birds, finally meets Giulietta again onstage; Fleur successfully disrupts their reunion and makes it appear to be this. Later, when the show can't go on, it's the clowns who have to tell the audience that — naturally, they aren't believed.
- Award-Bait Song: "Let Love Live", which opens the film. Watch out for the big Truck Driver's Gear Change near the end!
- City with No Name: The setting.
- Driven to Suicide: A dual attempt, at that.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: This is a quiet theme in the stage version, but the film runs with it.
- Enemy Mime: In a complete reversal of the trope, the mime's the good-hearted protagonist. (And he speaks.)
- Filling the Silence: The story is told in flashback by an adult Momo, played by Mako. However, another actor is credited for narration, much of which describes the setting and the feelings of characters — which Dragone and the actors do a pretty good job of getting across via body language. This suggests Executive Meddling akin to the Arabian Knight cut of The Thief and the Cobbler, possibly for similar reasons.
- Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Some of the women in the Cafe Opera have these as part of their outfits (perhaps some are old costumes). This also ties in to the stage version's bird imagery.
- From Bad to Worse: When Giulietta leaves the circus to find Frac, Fleur loses his drive to lead his troupe and the performers scatter. And she finally finds Momo and runs to him just as Marcello springs his trap to recapture the boy...
- Helicopter Parents: Fleur wants to shield his daughter from the cruelties of the world beyond the circus, and if it means humiliating Frac in public, then so be it.
- The Ingenue: Giulietta is the movie's analogue to the show's White Singer.
- Innocent Flower Girl: A whole warehouse of them, both female and male.
- Light Is Good: The song "Mountain of Clothes", which was only on the soundtrack album, notes the symbolism of hope in how all the kids pick out clean white clothes to wear once they're free.
- Love Hurts: And that's for those lucky enough who have or once had it.
- Magic Realism: In the closing sequence, the father speaks with Fleur, his stage character.
- Non-Ironic Clown: The clowns of the circus are very strange but they are not evil. note
- Punny Name: Old Taps, the keeper of the Cafe Opera, was a tap dancer back in the day. Could also be a pun on the song "Taps", as his career has long since died (and his spirit seems not far behind).
- Rewritten Pop Version: "Mountain of Clothes" became "Time to Go" for Delirium; along with Quidam's "Let Me Fall", it sounds closer to its original take than most of the tunes in that show do.
- The Show Must Go On: Beyond the All Part of the Show action Fleur takes to disrupt the lovers' reunion, he tries to hold on to this attitude after his daughter runs away, giving a speech to the performers before their next show explaining that they must put their problems aside to bring happiness to an audience that has problems of its own. His will fails him, and the show doesn't go on...
- Silly Rabbit, Romance Is for Kids!: Old Taps's attitude, due to his many ill-fated romances. Delirious-with-new-love Frac's joy provokes an drunken outburst from him: "Love's a happy business when you're young!" The narration notes that this may well be all talk, an attempt to steel himself against falling in love again.
- The Stinger: Involving a cameo by the director; also a Brick Joke and a Shout-Out to The Princess Bride.
- The Tragic Rose: The flowers that the kids are forced to tend and sell are roses. Twisting this further, Marcello tells them that what they are really selling is what the flowers represent — love — to people who want/need that in their lives (and even that doesn't always work out in practice, as seen when Momo tries to sell some to a bickering couple at a cafe), whereas they know nothing of that in theirs. In the meantime, Frac's first unsuccessful attempt to reunite with Giulietta involves delivering a bouquet of roses to her.
- White-Dwarf Starlet: Variant — the Cafe Opera caters specifically to old and forgotten performers, and is even owned by one; while a melancholy place, the patrons can find support, comfort, and even romance with their peers.
- A World Half Full: It seems to be a Crapsack World, but the characters who fight for happiness manage to find it.
- Would Hurt a Child: Marcello; physical abuse is one of the many ways he keeps the enslaved children in line.