The best summary of Cirque Berzerk came from a photographer attending the event’s celeb-studded red carpet: “A sexy mix between Cirque du Soleil and Tim Burton’s movies.”
The show is an upscale circus act mixed with an engaging plot, a variety of music and complex costumes that make for a thrilling experience.
Cirque Berzerk, which opened Jan. 7th at L.A. Live’s Club Nokia to a full house, begins with a humorous opening act. A pathetic magician materializes and performs unsuccessful tricks for anticipating audience members, who are unaware that the poor attempt at wizardry is just a distraction in preparation for the upcoming spectacle.
A slender woman (Emilie Livingston) wearing a bright red dress and surrounded by burly men wearing matching grey suits enters the stage to kick off the show, which follows the journey of the woman in red as she escapes her mundane corporate life and discovers the wonders of Cirque Berzerk: A traveling acrobatics freak show headed by the daunting ringmaster and his midget assistant.
From authentic magicians, male trapeze artists, contortionists and a couple using acrobatic straps, Cirque Berzerk has it all. Actors dance, jump, twist and fly across the stage in dazzling and resplendent musical numbers.
The physical highlight of the show is easily “Dig It Down,” where four men bounced from one trampoline to the top of a tall wall or to another trampoline on the other side. This carefully orchestrated event is fun, humorous, death-defying and brought the fearful audience to its its feet several times Wednesday night.
The music that accompanies the show covers every genre imaginable, compliments of pitch-perfect back up singers and a groovy band featuring Oingo Boingo bassist Johnny Avila. There are rock, cabaret, opera, heavy metal and ballad numbers, each matched with a different circus act. The music enhances the scenes and gave each one a distinct ambiance.
Although the acts are amazing, the most outstanding element of the show is the work behind the scenes.
The sets are brilliant and mesmerizing, filled with so many things in the limited stage space. Actors fill three-floored structures on either side of the stage as well as a main elevated stage filling the back. A white sheet acts as a backdrop for numerous projections throughout the show. The characters’ makeup and costumes are intricate, frightening and very Burton-esque.
Cirque Berzerk did, however, encounter some technical mishaps during the show.
The sound level was borderline unbearable in the first number, with sudden blares of music capable of knocking a few eardrums out, but the event technicians managed to fix the sound level by the third song.
The cheesy dialogue could also have used some work. The show clearly wasn’t written with any literary aspirations in mind, but its childish poetry is nothing to be admired.
Despite these weaknesses, the strengths of Cirque Berzerk, which was conceived at the 2004 Burning Man festival by Suzanne Bernel and Kevin Bourqe, far outweigh any simple dialogue or audio tremors.
It is a bizarre yet enjoyable show and definitely worth the investment.
Cirque Berzerk will continue performances through the end of the month at Club Nokia.