Production crew create surreal staging every week for Cirque’s show

Alegria's power track team. Cirque du Soleil will perform at Germain Arena Aug. 10-14.

Photo by danieldesmarais.com

Alegria's power track team. Cirque du Soleil will perform at Germain Arena Aug. 10-14.

Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria

Where: Germain Arena, 1100 Everblades Parkway, Estero

When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10 through Aug. 12; 3:30 p.m. Aug. 13, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Aug. 14

Prices: $37, $72 and $97; ticket fees with Ticketmaster range from $12.40 to $13.80

Tickets: Arena box office or Ticketmaster outlet

When Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria comes to Germain Arena for five days beginning Wednesday, Aug. 10, it will bring with it a fire knife dancer, trapeze artists, a flying man, contortionists and aerialists who practice their trade 40 feet above the audience.

The spectacle put on by these troupers is sure to be dazzling. Equally awe-inspiring are the unseen performances given by Alegria’s production crew, whose speed and precision in constructing the show’s set is equally impressive.

On Tuesday, Aug. 9, 18 trucks will come rolling down Interstate 75 from Charlotte, N.C., get off on Exit 128 and pull into Germain’s parking lot.

In less than 12 hours, all the trucks will be unloaded and the Alegria set, including a stage flanked on each side by spiral ramps and topped with a giant dome and decorated with columns, balustrades and lighting, will be ready for Alegria’s 55 performers and musicians.

Alegria’s assistant production manager, Mike Newnum, who has been touring with thee show for seven years, will have coordinated with Germain facility personnel to hire 100 local workers to help unload the trucks.

All the high-wire structures and other performing apparatuses will be set and anchored by nearly 25 weights that tip the scales at close to 5,000 pounds each.

It’s no wonder Alegria, as with other Cirque shows, is considered the major leagues of theatrical production.

“It’s just a normal operation for us,” said Newnum, who calls Denver home when he’s not on the road with Alegria nearly 10 months of the year, in close to 40 cities across the United States and Canada.

For Newnum and his crew, safety and precision are paramount.

“Our show is built with that safety in mind,” he said. “The aerialist structure is suspended about 40 feet in the air and it’s in place to within a quarter of an inch. One of the biggest challenges we have coming to a new arena is making sure that’s as solid and precise as humanly possible.

“As you can imagine, after swinging around up there and (the aerialists) let go to catch another bar, and that bar is a half-inch or inch out of the way, they’re going to miss that bar. That’s not good. Things like that are very important for us.”

“Our show is built with that safety in mind ... As you can imagine, after swinging around up there and (the aerialists) let go to catch another bar, and that bar is a half-inch or inch out of the way, they’re going to miss that bar. That’s not good. Things like that are very important for us.”

Mike Newnum, Alegria’s assistant production manager

When Alegria premiered in 1994, it was performed under a big top. It stayed that way until 2009, when the show was converted to be presented in arenas.

“The show itself is exactly the same, but how we transport it is totally different,” said Newnum, who got his start in theatre production with Up With People.

Including the performers and musicians, the Alegria crew travels with nearly 100 members, ranging from technicians, office workers, publicists and a wardrobe team.

In fact, there 400 costume pieces involved in the two-and-a-half hour show. The Alegria tour travels with its own washers and dryers to make things more efficient for the wardrobe staff.

Among the crew there are 15 countries represented, making Alegria an everyday international affair.

“I’ve been pretty lucky,” said Newnum, 35. “I’ve been to South America. I was in Japan for a year. Because of all the people I’ve been working with, I went to a wedding in South Africa. I went to a wedding in Japan, and another one in Mexico.

“There’s so many cultures and countries and nationalities on tour, that, naturally, you become friends with each other.”

Newnum said that although interpreters are sometimes needed, everyone communicates in English.

Come Sunday, Aug. 14, when Alegria wraps up at Germain with two performances, Newnum and crew will break down the stage and the sets, including those 5,000 pound weights, and have all 18 trucks loaded within four hours.

“It’s a pretty good system,” said Newnum. “Every case is labeled. Every cart is labeled, so we know exactly what truck and what order everything goes.”

After Germain, Alegria will go on a two-week break. The crew will head home. The trucks will head to Miami International Airport, where their contents will be shipped to Germany. Starting in September, Alegria will embark on a two-year European tour.

Such is life in the ever transient world of Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria.

“I’ve been touring for 13 years, so that’s what I know,” Newnum said. “If I’m home for too long, I start to get antsy. I’m so used to traveling all the time.

“It’s not so bad if you don’t mind living out of a suitcase and changing cities every week.”

© 2011 gonaples.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Sessions