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  • Choose your pronunciation: The French say "to-tehm"; we say "totem." Either or either way, Cirque du Soleil's Totem is its best show in years. After two seasons of Zarkana and straining to see what's on Radio City Music Hall's megastage [unless you were in the first 20 rows], Montreal's famous entertainment export is back through May 21 where it's best seen: under its yello et bleu [yellow and blue] chapiteaux [tent], in Wiletts Point, Queens - erected in a Citi Field parking lot.

    There're no totem poles, but you won't miss 'em; however, there're lots of Indian connections [even skating Indians! Who knew?], bodies of faux water, and styles of world music ranging from Native American, and Asian Indian, to Brazilian Indian [who knew they invented the samba]. 

    In over two years and a half since its Montreal premiere, Totem has toured Canada, the Netherlands, the U.K., and played numerous U.S. dates. It's a shame we're getting this production so late in the game, but it's been worth the wait.

    Cirque had long been famous for its Felliniesque productions with all sorts of spectacular imagery. Even that never clouded what really makes CdS world popular and worth the $85-$115 tickets: great daredevil artists from around the globe. Totem, with its far-fetched theme, is also visually stunning; but not to the point of drowning you in it. And the acts, from the opening parallel bar routines on The Cage [resembling a turtle] to the edge-of-your-seat "Russian Bars" finale featuring 10 amazing acrobats, are no disappointment.

    Totem is inspired "by many founding myths traces the journey of the human species from its original amphibian state through ancient civilizations to the ultimate desire to fly, exploring through a visual and acrobatic language the evolutionary ties ... that bind Man to other species, his dreams, and his infinite potential." And, yet, it's still quite entertaining!

    Impressive highlights among the 1
    1acts and clowns are: Eric Hernandez, decked out in Native American best, displays amazing dexterity with hoops while dancing. Marina and Svetlana Tsodikova are the Crystal Ladies, who "emerge from the fiery bowels of the earth," using hands and feet in impossible positions to spin squares of glittering cloth in coordinated high-speed motion. Pavel Saprykin contorts his body atop an hourglass while balancing on his hands.

    Then, there are the five amazingly-poised Asian unicyclists juggling golden bowls to their and each others' heads in synchronized agility, never once losing their beaming smiles. Not to be outdone, and in quite the seductive sequence, Massimilliano Medini and Denise Garcia-Sorta, in knock-out Sunday-go-to-powwow attire, spin and whirl at heart-stopping speeds atop
    a tiny platform shaped like a tom-tom in just-invented roller skates [we have much more to be grateful to the first Americans for than maize].

    Totem is under the artistic direction of Cirque du Soleil's Guy Laliberté and Gilles
    Ste-Croix; and written and directed by
    theater/opera/film director, playwright, and actor Robert Lepage. Carl Fillian is "director of creation" [production design]. Kym Barrett [The Amazing Spider Man, The Matrix] did the brilliant costume design. Make-up is by Nathalie Simard. Visa is the tour presenting sponsor.

    You can get to Totem by driving [$20 parking fee] and MTA Flushing Line Train 7 to Willets Point [weekend repair work require transfers from Manhattan to the 7 from Queens Plaza [E, M, R] or Queenboro Plaza [N,Q] or Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Avenue [E, F, M, R].

    For Cirque du Soleil's Totem tickets and show schedules, visit

    For a video preview of Cirque du Soleil's Totem: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7zVQNZA2rk

    ONE DROP special event to be streamed

    In celebration of March 22 World Water Day, ONE DROP, the non-profit organization established by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, will present One Night for ONE DROP. Tonight's one-night-only performance in Las Vegas features more than 230 Cirque artists and guest performers. A 90-minute special will be available for online viewing at ONEDROP.org for seven days, March 25 - 31, with a donation of $5 or more to ONE DROP, whose mission is striving to ensure that clean water is accessible to all. For more information, go to www.onedrop.org.


    Ellis Nassour is an international media journalist, and author of Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline, which he has adapted into a musical for the stage. Visit www.patsyclinehta.com.

    He can be reached at [email protected]

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