Before Disney’s Elsa, princess of Arendelle in last year’s inescapable Frozen, young women had another resourceful figure to champion.
Miranda, a girl “on the brink of womanhood,” a romantic, upbeat dreamer and daughter of the powerful queen and shaman Prospera, is the heroine of Cirque du Soleil’s 33rd production, Amaluna, which first hit the road in April 2012.
South Florida audiences will meet Miranda when Amaluna opens its month-long run Thursday under the familiar blue and yellow big top near Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. Cirque fans will see a first for the company — a show in which 70 percent of the 46-member cast are female and the entire band is female.
The casting is an about-face — Cirque shows have traditionally featured 70 to 80 percent male casts. The lopsided casting of the earlier shows wasn’t deliberate, said Rowenna Dunn, a spokeswoman. But Amaluna was indeed a concerted effort to change the make-up.
“This year [Cirque founder] Guy Laliberté said, ‘Let’s make an effort to showcase the strength and beauty of women, cast it wide, and showcase the talent and virtuosity and celebrate the grace of the female figure.’”
Will men in the audience feel left out? Dunn laughs. “With a cast of 70 percent beautiful women, they would be OK!”
Dunn adds, “But this is something for everybody, with a strong narrative. We’re not calling ourselves a feminist show, and we are not doing this to make a political statement.”
At the same time, if a young girl loved Frozen — and how many did not? — she might see herself in Miranda or even Prospera. She might, producers hope, find opportunities to dream through Amaluna’s storyline, which was written to be considerably more linear than abstract, whimsical Cirque presentations such as Totem, Kooza, Quidam or Dralion.
“With young girls, they see this as something I can do and aspire to be,” Dunn said during an Orlando tour stop. “We do feel that impact reverberating with audiences.”
Amaluna — a fusion of the words ama, which refers to mother in many tongues, and luna, which means moon — puts audiences on an island governed by goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon. These sisters of the moon honor their queen, Prospera, as she directs her daughter Miranda’s coming-of-age ceremony, which features femininity, renewal, rebirth and balance.
Prospera can conjure storms and after whipping up a doozy, a group of young men, taken by the wind, wash ashore. One of them, the dashing Romeo (naturally), falls for Miranda.
Director Diane Paulus, who won the 2013 Tony for her direction of the revival of Pippin, wrote Amaluna with a clear beginning, middle and end, and with an eye toward Greek and Norse mythology, Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
“I didn’t want to build a ‘women’s agenda’ show. I wanted to create a show with women at the center of it, something that had a hidden story that featured women as the heroines,” Paulus said in a statement.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Cirque production without eye-catching visuals. Amaluna has many, including a 25-foot -wide carousel and three acrobatic winches that can each lift up to 400 pounds at 10 feet per second. None is more fab than the one used for the scene in which Miranda performs a hand-balancing routine atop a nearly six-foot-tall water bowl as Romeo watches. That set piece required structural reinforcement to support the 5,500-pound bowl.
“There is a similar structure in our residence show in Las Vegas, built into the theater and structurally sound, but when we’re traveling we’re moving everything with us and we had to make sure the stage is reinforced,” Dunn said.
If Dunn is slightly more excited about one non-show aspect of the touring production, few will blame her. Freshly thawed from a wintery Montreal, she said, “We’re excited to be in Miami. We’re following the sunshine this time of year.”
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If you go
What: Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna,” written and directed by Diane Paulus
Where: Next to Sun Life Stadium, 347 Don Shula Dr., Miami Gardens
When: Opens 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Jan. 25. Show times Tuesday-Sunday vary, no shows Monday
Tickets: $47-$90 regular seats, $265 VIP Rouge includes drinks, food, souvenir program, extras
Information: www.cirquedusoleil.com/amaluna or 877-924-7783.