Here’s the things-to-do checklist for most people visiting Las Vegas: gamble; buffet; show. All these can be completed while in the airport… except watch a show.
Enter Zarkana. Playing five days a week at the beautiful Aria hotel, you can tell this Cirque Du Soleil show is relatively new because of the intense banner promotions around the hotel. Like many Las Vegas shows on a Monday, there was an obvious need to fill the theater. Our $65 ticket (even with a Las Vegas resident’s discount should’ve placed us in the nosebleeds) got upgraded several times until we were directly in front of the sound technicians, smack-dab at the center of the audience. It was perfect seating to view everything.
As the curtains rose, Zarkana’s introduction was intense. Pulsing vocals set the dramatic mood even as clowns who could’ve been designed by Tim Burton ran around. It was a wild ride ahead of us.
We were taken through a dozen performances resembling typical circus acts except with huge quantities of steroids injected in (the acts, not the performers). The largest group of performers were the ‘cheerleaders’ doing many flips and towers over each other—but it’s crazier because whenever the tower disassembled into the arms of their teammates, the jumpers never landed horizontally (like typical cheerleaders) but always stayed on their feet. One of the first acts involved a petite lady and her strong partner balancing each other on a straight ladder. Soon, it became the guy balanced at the top of the ladder WHILE holding another straight ladder with her perched on top WHILE all this on top of a piano… and nothing leaning against anything!
In between acts, we were introduced to the comic relief—two clowns who keep getting into trouble. At one point their antics gets one of them blasted out of a (fake) cannon—resulting with the clown slowly flying over the audience in an incredible illusion of him flying through space… which quickly bursts into hilarity as he takes off his shirt revealing pasties over his chest.
With movie screens bordering the stage and covering the rear, I marveled at the endless background possibilities! Unfortunately the backgrounds often ate the performers by being visually distracting. It was difficult to see the brown-clothed tightrope-walking duo jumping over each other and avoiding the flaming pendulum while against the background of constantly slithering, fat green snakes. Distracting! In another performance featuring performers zipping around inside metal hoops, tiny versions of them were shown zipping upwards and around the stage on the screens. The effect made their tricks less daring because… oh look! The animated guy in the screen can do it too! Distracting!
While most costuming and decor were on par with other Cirque shows, there were many instances where I had to scratch my head. The main singer with her haunting voice normally appeared in very elaborate costumes in unexpected locations, but when she was the ‘snake lady’ she was sporting a very Halloween-costume-store hat sprouting Medusa-like vines from her head. Most performances sported only the performers and their props on stage opting instead for those screens to decorate.
In comparison to Mystere, O, Love, and Ka, Zarkana is at the bottom. I’d say this was very similar to La Nouba in Orlando. While the talent and acrobatics were definitely on par, the presentation was definitely lacking and it was missing that special magic oomph found in other Cirque shows.