The story opens with a shy, inept man known as "The Innocent" trying and failing to fly a kite. His efforts are interrupted by the delivery of a large jack-in-the-box addressed to him. When he opens it, out pops "The Trickster", a smooth, sophisticated, cucumber-cool fellow in a nice suit who has arrived to transport our protagonist, via a Magic Wand, to a goofy clockwork kingdom filled with colourful individuals. What ensues is an adventure that will teach the hapless fellow of the possibilities that come with confidence and imagination.
KOOZA — the title is a Sanskrit word that can mean "box" or "treasure" — is something of an Adaptation Distillation of Cirque. In the years following the company's breakthrough tours Le Cirque Reinvente and Nouvelle Experience, the themes/concepts, characterizations, etc. of their shows became increasingly complex and elaborate. By contrast this show is a deliberate throwback to the early tours with only a handful of characters to follow and an plot that is much the same as the aforementioned two, that of an ordinary person (or people) transported and transformed by magical beings and thus enlightened to the wonders of whimsy. In fact, director David Shiner's previous work with Cirque was creating the clown acts of Nouvelle Experience and playing The Everyman protagonist during the first leg of its tour.
With the framework in place, the focus of this show is on the acrobatics and clowning that made the company famous, simply and cleanly presented. It was filmed for TV and DVD during the 2007 Toronto engagement.
This show contains examples of:
- Audience Participation: Even more than the average Cirque show, to the point of having No Fourth Wall at any point in the performance.
- Beauty Is Bad: The Trickster, though not really evil, is very devious and somewhat of a womaniser. He's even described as a handsome devil in one of the songs, "Kooza Dance".
- Big Friendly Dog: The Bad Dog.
- Book-Ends: The business with the kite.
- Brick Joke: Hey, what happened to the audience member that the clowns vanished? Turns out we see them later in a chase sequence between the Pickpocket and the security guards.
- The Chanteuse: The single female vocalist behaves like this; beautiful, elegant and wearing long, flowing gowns. Particularly during "Kooza Dance", when she changes into a sparkly number and flirts with the Crooner.
- Con Man: One of the clowns is this. At first he's used for comedy, but it's later learned, at the expense of a member of the audience, that he's dangerously slick.
- Costume Porn: Oh so much. As if it weren't cartoonishly colourful enough, some outfits such as the singer's evening dress, the Crooner, the skeleton showgirls and the juggler (whose suit turns him into a walking disco ball) really take the cake.
- The Dead Can Dance: Act Two opens with the Innocent accidentally summoning a troupe of merrily dancing skeletons with the wand.
- Dramatic Curtain Toss: Rather than a forceful toss, the white shroud that conceals what appears to be a giant pillar at the back of the stage is gracefully lifted up to reveal an ornate tower (with a balcony, the bandstand, and the entrance portal for the performers) once the Trickster transports the Innocent to the kingdom.
- The Everyman: The Innocent.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: The glitzy, sequined, Las Vegas-style costumes for the Skeleton act, particularly the Crooner.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: Two acts: manipulation (an acrobat twirling many hoops around her body) and the wheel of death.
- Foil: The Innocent is a short and chubby guy, a bit of a loser; the Trickster is tall, thin, confident, and quick. Even the costumes play into this — the Innocent's pajama-like outfit and cap have (initially) colorless horizontal stripes while the Trickster's suit and cap have brightly-colored vertical stripes.
- Gentleman Snarker: The Trickster would most likely be this, if he ever spoke. However his flashy manners and mocking sneer are evidence enough.
- Gentleman Thief: The Pickpocket appears polite and well-dressed during his act, while shamelessly robbing his victims of everything he can think of.
- Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: Referred to as "The American Tourist" in the program, this goofy guy shows up during the preshow. (Though, at least when it toured the U.S., the House Manager revealed he was Canadian during the opening announcements.)
- Harmless Villain: The Pickpocket. He'll steal everything you have in your pockets, but at least he'll give everything back afterwards.
- Laughing Mad: After the Innocent tries to use the Magic Wand and unleashes Kooza's dark side, Trickster suddenly drops his cool air and starts laughing like a maniac. A prominent sign that he may have a few screws loose.
- Left the Background Music On: One of the clown acts has the King welcomed onto the stage with an appropriate fanfare... Only to be annoyed at how it's still going when he's trying to do his thing, so he shuts the band up leading to...
- Letting the Air Out of the Band: The King shutting up the band has them slowly and dejectedly peter off to a stop, after which the King and the clowns begin mocking their playing.
- Magical Land: Where The Trickster transports The Innocent for his adventure.
- Nameless Narrative: The only character given a proper name is a robot.
- Original Cast Precedent: About halfway broken with the Trickster — Dasha Vintilova (better known as Kooza's trapeze artist) played the character for a brief period, but most fans have no knowledge of this fact and continue to treat the role as always-male. Which makes sense, considering that the Trickster has obvious character parallells to the Innocent which are better played out if they're, um, both the same gender.
- Prophet Eyes: The performer playing the Trickster usually wears contact lenses which make their eyes appear completely white except for the pupils. Perhaps a sign that the Trickster is something other than human...
- Puppet King: The King is an idiot and it's blatantly clear that Trickster is running the show, though the King still believes he holds authority. Interesting as the roles of King and Jester are effectively reversed.
- Requisite Royal Regalia: The King's crown (which he has a tendency to lose).
- Robot Buddy: Heimloss, who attends to the stage and "lives" beneath it, only popping up occasionally.
- Running Gag: In the preshow, the House Manager keeps accidentally triggering the stage's alarm system (which works like a car alarm).
- The diver under the stage could also qualify as this.
- Sliding Scale of Seriousness Versus Silliness: One of the most lighthearted Cirque shows of all.
- Tableau: Act One ends with the Innocent raising the wand to use it himself; it's clear something is going to happen, but he is stock-still in that position as the lights go down. (This is followed by a brief, spotlit appearance by Heimloss to "announce" the intermission.) As Act Two opens, the lights rise to reveal the tableau once more, and the action resumes.
- The Trickster: The character of the same name.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Sparks fly between the Trickster and the trapeze artist, however she's determined to resist his wiles, even when clearly leading him on.