Cirque du Soleil's fourth show, their first after their North American breakthrough Le Cirque Réinventé, ran from 1990 through 1993. In the years following Reinvente's debut the company recruited many new performers, particularly from Europe and Asia. As well, the creative team wanted to deliver a more theatrical show than its predecessor, so the ring and curtain at the back of the performance space were eliminated to create smoother transitions between individual acts, tying them into a larger whole. Thus the show bridged the gap between the Early Installment Weirdness and the spectacles that would establish the company as an entertainment powerhouse as The '90s continued.
The plot is similar to Reinvente's, but slightly more complex and symbolic. The Everyman has been spirited into a Magical Land of friendly, clownish "Flounes" and Angels, servants known as Corporation, and naughty Devils. What order there is here is kept by the jolly-but-intimidating Madame Corporation and her right-hand man the Great Chamberlain, who oversee the confused-but-kind Everyman's journey through a series of adventures and wonders.
The original tour ran from 1990-91 in North America. In mid-1992, several performers and acts from this show were carried over into the Japanese arena tour Fascination. Once that tour was completed, Nouvelle reopened at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada for a one-year engagement (1992-93) as a precursor to Cirque's first permanent production (Mystere) at the Mirage's sister establishment, Treasure Island.
The show was filmed in 1991 and won the 1992 Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Program (Special). Compare with KOOZA, a later show directed by David Shiner — who played the Everyman during this tour's first leg and created his character's clown acts — and created as a throwback to early Cirque efforts.
This show contains examples of:
- Adipose Rex: Madame Corporation, also known as the Queen of the Flounes; whatever you call her, she's Large and in Charge.
- Audience Participation: The Everyman has two segments involving this: He goes on a date with a young lady in his rickety "car", and attempts to film a silent movie with four audience members.
- Big Red Devil: The Devils, who are not villains but naughty tricksters, are a goofy version of this trope — red-clad with half-masks that have various permutations of horns and squat or extended noses. While Madame Corporation initially dresses in Heavenly Blue, she has a red Horned Hairdo, and switches to a red version of her costume during the show's second half.
- Boléro Effect: The soundtrack album's version of the show's final number, "Bolero". As used in the show, where it's simply a quick Dance Party Ending, the song does not invoke this specific effect.
- Carrying a Cake: The chair balancing act involves defying this trope — the performer takes a "cake" (complete with lighted candles) up with him as the tower grows and grows.
- Cloudcuckooland / Magical Land: The story's unnamed setting. The Everyman is initially seen as strange and even frightening by the Flounes. Those who don't fear him (The Devils and the two emcee characters) are magic-wielding eccentrics; the Great Chamberlain appears to be the sanest of them, and yet he's the one who decides to try wirewalking on a whim.
- Color-Coded Characters
- Cool Old Guy: The gray-haired Great Chamberlain, particularly when he takes to the slackwire for a comic wirewalking act. Performer Brian Dewhurst was a few weeks away from his 58th birthday when the show opened; thus he was performing this role into his early sixties. He also took this act to the Fascination hybrid tour, playing the ringmaster from Le Cirque Reinvente. (In his late sixties he took over Mystère's clown act, but that's a whole other set of tropes...)
- Dance Party Ending: To a tune called "Bolero", no less!
- Dramatic Thunder: In a non-sinister example, this is summoned by the Great Chamberlain to herald the arrival of the solo trapeze performer.
- Einstein Hair: The Great Chamberlain has this, which comes across as an angelic contrast to the devil-red Horned Hairdo of Madame Corporation.
- The Everyman: The protagonist.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: Antipodisme (foot juggling), in which the performer twirls parasols, etc. with their feet. More serene than speedy, but still extremely impressive.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The title, of course, means "New Experience" in English.
- Expy: Madame Corporation and the Great Chamberlain serve much the same function that the Queen of the Night and the King of Fools did in Le Cirque Reinvente, albeit with more ostentatious appearances and personalities. Since he introduces (and sometimes remains present in the background for) several acts, the Great Chamberlain also works as an analogue to the Ringmaster in Reinvente, which was probably a reason why Fascination cast the former's actor as the latter character.
- Fiery Redhead: Madame Corporation. She's basically good, but her Large Ham ways can be frightening — and her laugh can compete with any Evil Laugh one could think of.
- Fountain of Youth: In the finale, the Everyman is de-aged into a boy.
- Gold and White Are Divine: The Angels are clad in these colors.
- Great Gazoo: Madame Corporation and the Great Chamberlain. Luckily, they are benevolent, playful rulers.
- Handshake Refusal: The Everyman quickly learns that his friendly offer of a handshake is a foreign — and to the Flounes at least, terrifying — gesture to the denizens of this land. However, by the midpoint of Act One both sides are more comfortable with each other and he is able to shake hands with one of the Flounes.
- Heavenly Blue: Madame Corporation, the Great Chamberlain, Corporation, and the musicians have rich blues as the primary colors in their costumes, though Madame Corporation switches to red during Act Two. The slackwire walker (when played by a man) whom the Great Chamberlain tries to follow in the footsteps of has a costume in tints of sky blue.
- Horned Hairdo: Madame Corporation has a devil red horn-like hair style. As mentioned above, she isn't evil, but she is an intimidating trickster.
- Mascot: From 1998 to 2001, the official Cirque website used the Great Chamberlain as the site's "host".
- Movie-Making Mess: The Everyman's film shoot degenerates into this as the audience members inevitably have trouble keeping up with his mimed instructions. In the videotaped version, it goes so badly that it ends with him pretending to be Driven to Suicide!
- No Fourth Wall: Beyond the Audience Participation, the characters are well aware of the audience throughout.
- Non-Ironic Clown: The Everyman and the Flounes. The Great Chamberlain has aspects of this as well, particularly in the wirewalking act. (See Spotlight-Stealing Squad below.)
- Parasol of Prettiness: The young ladies who perform the foot juggling act not only carry Chinese parasols but use them as their primary props!
- Re-Cut: The Mirage version cut the Intermission and the Russian bars act.
- Singing Simlish / Speaking Simlish
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: The Great Chamberlain logs the most onstage time of any one character in the show and even gets his own acrobatic setpiece, comic though it is. In fact, when Brian Dewhurst was hired for the role, it was strictly character work; it was only later that his long-established comedy slackwire act was incorporated into it.
- Technician vs. Performer: A real life example. This was the first Cirque show to use director Franco Dragone's artist workshops, in which he worked with the highly-skilled acrobats, dancers, etc. to bring out their inner performers. The characters evolved from what emerged from their respective artists during this process, and as a result the show featured technicians who were equally, simultaneously skilled as performers.
- Trapped in Another World: The Everyman. He's sent back to where he came from at the end, but magically de-aged into a child.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: The aerial straps performer.
- World of Ham: Most Cirque shows are set in this, but the characters/performers in this one took it to heretofore unknown levels for the company. The television ad Mark Romanek directed for it, "Portraits" (viewable at his website), is practically a celebration of this.