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Theatre / Corteo

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Cirque du Soleil's seventeenth show launched in 2005.

"Corteo" is the Italian word for cortege, which means "funeral procession". The story takes place in the deathdream of a turn-of-the-20th-century European circus clown. While this sounds terribly morbid, and the show opens with his mourners gathering round his deathbed, what ensues is extremely warmhearted and uplifting, a celebration of a life on Earth and a joyous homecoming in Heaven. The characters, besides the angels watching over the Dead Clown, are primarily his dear colleagues from the circus; their relationships provide the show's heart.


This was filmed for TV and DVD in 2005 during the Toronto engagement. The original production closed at the end of 2015, as Cirque determined that it could not be faithfully recreated in an arena format as previous tent tours had. Three years later in 2018, however, the company launched a revival staging for arenas, making it the first time the company had revived a show since the 1992 limited-run stagings of Le Cirque Réinventé and Nouvelle Experience.

This show contains examples of:

  • Balloonacy: Real Life example with the "helium dance". The Clowness (a little person) is placed in a harness attached to several giant balloons, and from there drifts over the stage and audience — who helps her along on her flight.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The songs have Spanish or Italian lyrics. Notably, and probably due to the more-realistic-than-usual setting, this is Cirque's first tour in years to completely eschew Speaking Simlish / Singing Simlish; most of the dialogue is in English.
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  • Catch-Phrase: "I am calm!" for the Loyal Whistler (the ringmaster).
  • Clucking Funny: Early in the run, an Act Two segment called "A Not-So-Serious Act" featured performers who found their rhythmic gymnatics act interrupted by a rain of rubber chickens. The act is gone, but the chickens remain.
  • Costume Porn: The classical traditional circus outfits. Also counts as Gorgeous Period Dress.
  • Dying Dream: The premise.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: The judicious use of a handful of glitter in the final moments of the duo-straps act.
  • Everything's Better with Spinning: Three acts invoke this: chandeliers, cyr wheel, and duo-straps.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Teatro Intimo is truly intimate, because it's truly small. Many of the character names fit this trope as well.
  • Gentle Giant: The Giant Clown.
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  • Man in White: The White Clown.
  • Motifs: Circles. The show presents death as a homecoming for the soul in question, and thus a life come full circle.
    • The stage, unique to Cirque, is circular instead of the traditional 3/4 thrust design; it's not an in-the-round setup (the side entrances for the performers split the seating into two halves), but it's close enough for symbolic purposes. As a bonus, several of the acts have the stage revolving as they unfold.
    • The cyr wheels.
    • The adiago duet is performed on and around a large, fixed hoop.
    • The jugglers are adept with rings and hoops.
    • The tightwire walker uses hoops as part of her routine, as well as a unicycle.
    • The Dead Clown is last seen riding a bicycle in the sky.
  • Nameless Narrative
  • No Antagonist: The story is an examination of a little "family" of performers who do their best to put on a good show and are sometimes stymied by such things as unpredictable animals, a too-small theatre, bizarre incidents (raining chickens?), and individual performers' desire to be the center of attention. (Imagine a human version of The Muppet Show.)
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Most of the principal characters. A stated goal of this show was to create clowns that would be embraced by audiences, especially children, more familiar with the Monster Clown trope than this.
  • Ocular Gushers: The preshow has several of the Dead Clown's mourners gathering in the tent aisle and wailing their hearts out — and their "tears" leave those nearby damp.
  • Pantomime Animal: The horses.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: The Teatro Intimo segment.

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