Cirque du Soleil's ninth show opened in 1996 and toured the world for almost twenty years before it closed permanently in 2016. It was born of the company's decision to do a darker, more realistic show (as much as a circus can be) than before. Somehow, they made it work, and it ranks up with shows like Alegría and "O" as one of the company's most acclaimed and beloved productions.
In Latin, "quidam" (pronounced "key-dahm") is a word meaning "nameless, faceless passerby". This is what adolescent girl Zoe feels like. The story begins in her home as she sadly tries to entertain herself, as her father reads the paper and her mother knits, each off in their own little world. Then a stranger arrives...a tall stranger who appears to have no head, and whom only Zoe appears to notice. The stranger — the Quidam — leaves a little blue bowler hat behind as it departs, while two other strangers (bizarre emcee John and the merry, clownish Target) who entered as well stay behind. The hat seems to be magical, and Zoe puts it on. With that, everyone is transported into a sometimes-melancholy Magical Land where Zoe will come to understand that every person in the world is a quidam to someone else, and that love and happiness stem from connecting and reconnecting with others...if only for a little while.
This show was filmed during its Amsterdam engagement in 1999.
This show contains examples of:
- Animal Motifs: Zoe has a pet "bird" (a tiny balloon) in a cage in the opening scene, as per director Franco Dragone's typical invocation of bird imagery. Later, we meet the Aviator, who wears a pair of bony, featherless wings.
- Audience Participation: The current clown acts use audience volunteers.
- Bare Your Midriff: The handbalancer.
- Bittersweet Ending: As in so many stories that go Down the Rabbit Hole, in the end one must go back up...and Zoe is more reluctant than most to do so.
- Character Title: The first of only a few Cirque shows to use this trope (the others are ZAIA and ZED).
- City Shout Outs: More of a whisper: the newpaper Father is reading in the opening sequence is that of whatever city the show is performing in.
- Cover Version: Josh Groban covered the English-language version of "Let Me Fall".
- Darker and Edgier: Done right. The ending can even be seen as a melancholy take on that of Le Cirque Réinventé.
- Down the Rabbit Hole: Unusual in that the heroine isn't the only one transported, but it is still very much her journey to take.
- Dramatic Thunder: The bowler hat being dropped and left behind in the opening sequence first cues this effect. It is later used during the german wheel and aerial contortion acts, when Quidam returns for Zöe's hat, and when Boum-Boum punches his punching gloves together (though rather for the use of Large Ham).
- The Everyman: Zoe...and Quidam and the rest of the cast, as the point of the show is that everyone is an everyperson.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: The German wheel, diabolos, and aerial hoop acts.
- The Faceless: Quidam, due to apparently not having a head (or is it just that we're not seeing it?), and the Chiennes Blanches, white-clad folk who conceal their faces with little cowls.
- Hidden Depths: It seems this Magical Land brings them out where Zoe's boring parents are concerned. The Mother performs the aerial contortion in silk act. Also, if any one act in the show could not be performed, a juggling act was substituted...performed by The Father.
- It Will Never Catch On: According to the company's 20th anniversary book, a marketing executive who was to handle the show's San Francisco engagement doubted it would do well due to its darker nature. He was wrong.
- Large Ham: Three — John, the principal clown, and Boum-Boum.
- Monster Clown: Boum-Boum fits this trope appearance-wise.
- Movie-Making Mess: The "film shoot" plays out this way thanks to its use of Audience Participation.
- Nice Hat: The means of travel between worlds.
- Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: How Zoe initially feels.
- Original Cast Precedent: Broken with the Target. The character was originally played by a man but, perhaps because its gender isn't important, later played by both men and women. It was also somewhat broken with Zöe, in which the character was originally played by a girl under 18 years of age, but was changed to always being played by a young-looking woman when the show was converted to arena format due to Cirque's rule of "no children on arena tours".
- Parental Obliviousness: Again, only Zoe notices the arrival of Quidam and the others.
- Plucky Comic Relief: John.
- Production Throwback: The opening announcement of the theater rules is broadcast over a radio that John adjusts. On his way to the "station" in question, we hear song snippets from the three previous Cirque shows that toured the U.S.: "Eclipse" from Nouvelle Experience, "Kumbalawé" from Saltimbanco, and the title song from Alegría. (The last one provokes a disgusted reaction from John.)
- Rewritten Pop Version: The soundtrack album's version of "Let Me Fall" is in English. This version also appeared in the Delirium concert tour.
- Series Mascot: The Target, in the show's later years.
- Set Switch Song: "Marelle" and portions of "Carrousel".
- Sidekick: John and Target; at least the former is also an Older Sidekick.
- Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: This is still the most serious of Cirque's tours.
- Title Theme Tune: As in Alegría, it's the closing number.
- Troubled Child: Zoe.
- Urban Fantasy: The fantasy world isn't even all that different from the real one; the set is inspired by a railroad station, for instance.