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Theatre / Saltimbanco

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Cirque du Soleil's fifth production toured the world from 1992-2012. The plot is a celebration of urbanity; the title is Italian for the phrase "to jump on a bench" and can also refer to a street performer. The characters, who live in "the city", are divided into three groups — the Multicolored Worms that show up early on for the Chinese Poles act, representing primitive lifeforms; the Masked Worms, people forever clad in face-concealing white masks, afraid to show their individuality and serving as observers in Act One; and the Baroques, life-loving, good-natured rowdies who represent what the Urban Worms can evolve into and are the only characters seen in Act Two.

This show was designed to sit on the far end of idealism, and thus one of the sunniest of Cirque's shows — drenched in bright primary colors and with a score that draws heavily on world music with the occasional rock-tinged number, as in the Russian swing act that opens Act Two.

Because this show and Mystère (which opened at the end of 1993) significantly overlapped in their development stages and creative teams, and the company was much smaller then, several acrobatic disciplines appear in both shows — Chinese poles, hand to hand, and bungee trapeze. However, the two shows have significantly different moods and themes; Mystere can be seen as a moon to Saltimbanco's sun.

The show was filmed in 1994 and released on video. After years of touring under the big top, often as Cirque's first show to visit a particular country as the company's reach grew, in 2007 it was adapted for arenas in smaller cities and made another round-the-world circuit.

This show contains examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The evolution of the characters is easy enough to understand, but some individual character details and the "city" theme are largely material for the souvenir program and website. Still, this is one of Cirque's most accessible shows.
  • Animal Motifs: As per director Franco Dragone's invocation of birds and bird imagery, the lead singer is called "The Songbird" and has a hairdo that resembles feathers.
  • Audience Participation: The preshow has the Baroques and later Masked Worms mingle with the audience; in Act Two, Eddie selects a man from the audience to serve as his opponent in a pantomimed Wild West shootout.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The second-to-last song, "Il Sogno di Volare", is in Italian.
  • Blithe Spirit: The Baroques.
  • City with No Name
  • Cool Chair: A colorfully upholstered one that the Child is seated in; it's turned around and Eddie is revealed sitting in the Child's place (suggesting that Eddie is the Child grown up).
  • Dramatic Curtain Toss: A big white sheet covers much of the stage as the audience arrives; it's lifted during the second part of the opening sequence to the strains of "Kumbalawe".
  • Dreams of Flying: The music from the bungee flight scene is actually titled "Il Sogno di Volare (The Dream of Flying)".
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: The skit preceding the bungee act ends with the Dreamer tossing a handful of sparkly confetti into the air. His outfit has sequined stripes, too.
  • Expy: The Masked Worms are a more stylized version of the Ordinary People from Le Cirque Reinvente.
  • The Faceless: The Masked Worms.
  • Fiery Redhead: Fiona, one of the most prominent of the Baroques.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: Because the orchestrations were updated over the years, the 1992 soundtrack album was given this treatment in 2005. Along with adding two songs that hadn't appeared on the original album, all the songs either had re-recorded portions (the solo guitar part on "Kumbalawe", for example, was dropped) or were new recordings.
  • The Grim Reaper: Simply referred to as "Death", he shows up to spook the other characters now and again. ( It's actually Eddie playing pranks.)
  • Heävy Mëtal Ümlaut: Subverted with the song "Pokinoï". This is a legitimate use of the symbol, but it's a diaeresis for French: it shows that it's pronounced with an "oy" rather than a "wa".
  • Long-Runners: The show originally closed in 1997, but was revived the following year; thus it enjoyed 20+ years of running off-and-on.
  • Manchild: The clown Eddie — possibly literally, as the Cool Chair segment suggests.
  • Mascot: For the first two years of the official Cirque du Soleil website (1996-97), the Baron served as the "host".
  • Or Was It a Dream?: Quirky variation — the backstory notes that the blue-clad Dreamer might be dreaming all this up, or just part of what we see (i.e. a character parade during a transitional scene).
  • Portmantitle: The title of the music for the Russian swings act, "Barock", is a portmanteau of baroque and rock.
  • Rewritten Pop Version and Rearrange the Song: In Delirium, "Pokinoi" became "One Love" and "Kumbalawe" became "Kumba" (the latter, unlike most of the songs in that show, was still in Simlish).
  • Running Gag: Literally — in Act Two the Ringmaster is so frightened by Death that he runs off screaming...and crosses the stage still running and screaming at one point during the shootout setpiece that follows...and finally runs out of breath and slows down during hand to hand.
  • Scatting: Most of the songs, as with most Cirque shows.
  • Set Switch Song: "Pokinoi" became this after the act it was originally written for, vertical rope, was dropped.
  • Spectacular Spinning: The "artistic bicycle" and boleadoras acts.
  • The Trickster: The Baron and especially Eddie.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: The hand to hand duo.