Cirque du Soleil's twelfth production, which opened in December 1998, was a landmark for the company in two ways. It was their first non-touring show outside of Las Vegas, and the first to be mounted at a Disney resort: Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, at a custom-built theater at the Downtown Disney (later Disney Springs) shopping/dining district. As well, it was the final Cirque show written and directed by Franco Dragone, who had pulled these duties for most of them up to that point. Amazingly, it premiered less than five months after "O" had arrived on the other side of the country.
Though no Disney elements appear in the show, Dragone and his collaborators took inspiration from that company's knack for re-telling fairy tales and came up with a Cinderella story of their own. Once upon a time, a Cleaning Lady opens the door to an attic filled with strange, colorful personages ("Cirques"), inadvertently causing their world to collide and mingle with the ordinary world of "Urbains" she comes from. Eventually, everyone will be living Happily Ever After.
The name "La Nouba" comes from the French term faire la nouba, which means "to live it up" or "party".
While it was still running at Walt Disney World, this show was filmed and released on DVD in 2004, and is currently the only resident show that can claim this distinction.
La Nouba final performance at Disney Springs was on December 31, 2017, capping off a nineteen-year run. Disney has confirmed that a new Cirque du Soleil production, with a Disney animation theme, will replace it once the theater has been renovated and updated.
This show contains examples of:
- Audience Participation: Surprisingly little for a Cirque show, but one audience member gets to be one of the people jumped over for the climax of the bike act.
- Brick Joke: Two in the final few minutes: The floating rock in the clowns' space adventure (later changed to a piece of candy from a pinata) crashes to Earth at the very end, while the trumpet player who appears in the Opening Ballet turns out to be the Frog Prince the Cleaning Lady weds.
- Carrying a Cake: Defied in the original version of the chair balancing act, in which the cake is successfully carried up and up the tower by the performer (by balancing it on his head, etc.).
- Cowboys and Indians: The primary clown duo played this game in one skit that was subsequently cut when their performers left. It appears in the filmed version.
- Creepy Circus Music: While the act it supported (chair balancing) was lighthearted, "A La Lune" has aspects of this at the beginning, including a menacing snatch of the famous "Entrance of the Gladiators".
- Dream Land: According to the All There in the Manual material, the attic is this.
- The Everyman: The Cleaning Lady.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: The diabolos and cycles acts. The original opening act, German wheels, was this as well (it was retired and replaced with skipping ropes in 2010).
- Fairy Tale
- Fantastic Romance: The Cleaning Lady and the Frog Prince, Played for Laughs.
- Genre Savvy: The Cleaning Lady in suspecting that the frog is a transformed prince.
- Large Ham: The Green Bird, at least in the DVD version. According to the performer, the character originally had a scene where she would cry out in alarm and faint. Then one day when she was feeling angry about things in general, the performer decided the character should totally freak out before collapsing. The audience loved it so it stayed in.
- Men In White: The Nuts, who are innocent fools.
- Nice Hat: The Walker's bowler hat.
- Non-Fatal Explosions: Turn up twice in the clowns' setpieces.
- Non-Ironic Clown: The Green Bird and several other Cirques have appearances and/or personalities that fit this trope.
- The primary clown duo play out comic scenarios (astronauts, mother with baby carriage, etc.).
- The Nuts are a four-mime quartet who weave in and out of the action.
- The cheery Walker serves a similar function.
- The male half of the Lovers (dancers) is a Pierrot clown.
- An Acrobatic Pierrot heads up the climactic power track/trampoline number.
- Once Upon a Time: The title of the song for the post-prologue act (formerly German wheel, later skipping ropes), which kicks off the action proper; the soundtrack album's version starts with a child reciting a bedtime story that starts with these words.
- Opening Ballet: The show has a prologue featuring a procession of Cirques around the theater's main aisle; this is followed by a second dance sequence that would, ordinarily, serve as this.
- Our Acts Are Different: The 90-minute show (plus a 10-15 minute preshow) is performed in one act.
- Pimped-Out Dress: The Cleaning Lady's wedding gown — a goofy-looking one, but this nonetheless.
- Roll Out the Red Carpet: Spoofed: A green carpet is rolled out for the finale, and the clowns "mow" it away as the curtain call comes to a close!
- Running Gag: The Nuts appear twice during the preshow to crash cymbals, but realize that they've come out too early. The actual cue for the cymbals doesn't happen until much later.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: This was Cirque's most idealistic, brightly-colored show in years, and especially compared to Quidam and "O".
- True Love's Kiss: Figures into the ending; shared between the Cleaning Lady and the frog, with the twist that the kiss comes before true love.
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: In the soundtrack album version of "A Tale", this happens at about the 1/3 mark.
- Woman in White: The Ballerina, the female half of the Lovers, initially appears in an all-white outfit (likely inspired by Swan Lake).