The Corteo by Cirque du Soleil Tour rolled into Windsor at the WFCU Centre this week and the media was given an exclusive look at what goes on behind the scenes on Wednesday afternoon before the show opened.
Maxwell Batista, Senior Publicist at Cirque du Soleil, took members of the media backstage where we watched the cast of acrobats practicing, and learned some of the aspects involved with putting on this exciting production.
Twenty semi-trucks rolled into the WFCU Centre parking lot to begin setup. “It takes one day to set up for the show,” explained Batista. “34 technicians lead 100 people we hire locally to help us with setup. On Sunday, when the last guest leaves the arena, only three and a half hours are needed to pack everything inside 20 semi-trucks and move to the next place. If you want to learn to pack fast you should come spend three and a half hours with us.”
Batista explained the production, “Corteo stars a clown who dreams about his own funeral but in a carnival atmosphere. You’re going to see his friends from different circuses from all over the world coming to see him and show all the amazing skills they have.”
“Even though the main theme of the show is a funeral, the show is a celebration of life. You’re going to see the greatest moments of this clown’s life, from when he was a kid and use to play on his bed pretending it was a trampoline. We will see two big trampolines in the shape of a bed with four acrobats, jumping from bed to bed doing some high level tricks. We have the loves he had in his life flying above the stage on big chandeliers. And all of friends come and show how amazing they are as circus artists.”
“The audience will be on the journey of this clown’s life, you’ll see human beings on stage, this is to connect yourself with the story.”
“From the two hours of show, I’m pretty sure that you’re going to be moved and touched from a mix of feelings, happiness and excitement and nostalgia will all come together, and you’ll forget about everything happening outside the arena and become focused on (the clown) Mauro’s life.”
During rehearsal a lot of cast members were both on stage and backstage, and could be heard speaking different languages or with accents. “In Corteo we have 52 performers from 18 different nationalities,” explained Batista. “We have people from all over the world, so when you go backstage you can hear pretty much any language you can think of. We have people from Armenia, Hungary, Brazil Argentina, Australia, Mexico, U K., Canada, U.S., France, Belgium, Russia, and Belarus. I’m not sure if I mentioned all of them but it’s a huge list.”
“Besides that we have another 60 people working backstage, in total we over 110 people. From 22 different nationalities traveling together to make this show happen every week.”
Corteo is different from other Cirque du Soleil productions. The stage is in the middle of the arena, almost like a large theatre in the round set up. “its unique because it is in the middle of the arena and we have the audience sitting on both sides of the stage,” says Batista. “So when something extraordinary happens on the stage, you can see the reaction of other people on the other side. Because the stage is in the centre of the arena, it feels very intimate as well. Even though you’re in a big arena you always feel close to the stage. Besides that, there’s no bad seats in the house.no matter where you sit you have a perfect view.”
Baptista says he has seen the show so many times that he has lost count but it’s different every time. He describes one of his favourite moments in the show; “We have a small person flying above the stage in big balloons and the audience will have to participate because they have to push her up into the air while she’s above them. So it’s a really cute nice moment.”
No matter how many times Batista has seen the show the cast continually amazes him. “I’m still mesmerized because they make it look easy.But when I go backstage I see them working out and training really hard every day. They make it look easy on stage. It’s a really good feeling because I get to work with the most talented people I could ever imagine in my life.”
One cast member, Johan Juslin a juggler from Finland, took the time to speak with Eyes On Windsor. He’s been with the current arena incarnation of Corteo since it started back in October of 2017 (Corteo was originally a big top show that debuted in Montreal in 2005).
“It’s been a great experience traveling all around North America, seeing different cities and the difference between Canada and the U.S. it makes for a very interesting experience,” says Juslin. “Seventeen years ago I started juggling by myself, just watching Cirque du Soleil on TV. I just went wow, that’s something I need to do. I started juggling and then in 2006 I joined a youth circus. I was with the youth circus for 11 years before coming here. So I have a circus background, juggling is my main discipline but I do some basic acrobatics and other things. In the show I’m a juggler, a harlequin character, and I’m also a Chicken Angel and I’m in a hoarse costume.”
When asked about how he prepares for a show Juslin says; “Every day is different. Sometimes I Train a lot, other times not much at all and just do some stretching. It depends, if you’re tired or feel full of energy. So every day is different, I don’t have a specific schedule but I always make sure I’m ready to do the job as good as possible.”
“If you come watch the show I hope you have a great time,” says Juslin.
While none of the cast are Windsor natives, Batista points out, “we have someone from the U.K., our band leader, he actually lives in Windsor right now (actually Leamington), he moved to Windsor a couple of years ago, His name is Roger Hewitt. We also have someone on the technical team, Zachary Fraser, who is from Ontario.”
In addition to the cast and crew, Batista took us further behind the scenes and explaining more about what is involved with the Corteo production.
Six washing machines were set up in one corner of the WFCU Centre along with a couple of dryers, part of what the tour brings with them to each stop. Costumes are washed daily, most hung on racks to dry. Two local people are hired in each city to help iron and press the costumes. This can take up to 8 hours each day because there are over 2000 costume pieces. Some performers use up to 6 costumes per show.
Cast members change costumes incredibly fast during the show, it takes them roughly 35 seconds to take it off, and about a minute and a half to put on a new one before heading back out on stage.
New cast members are flown to Montreal where a full 3D scan of their body and skin tone is taken. Costumes are then custom made to their body dimensions. “From head to toe, shoes, gloves, pants, jackets… everything that they use on stage is custom made for them,” explained Batista. Even skin tones are scanned and used to paint parts of costumes if needed.
The Corteo tour has a shoe specialist traveling with them to make sure the shoes look beautiful every night. Whenever shoes are scuffed or scratched they are repainted.
All of the cast members apply their own makeup. They are required to take lessons in developing their own act, clapping, singing, dancing, acting and also applying makeup. The makeup is mostly natural skin colours, applied lightly, and used mainly to emphasize facial features and lines. Some of the cast, the White Clown and musicians, do use heavy layers of makeup, mainly white, black, and red. It can take up to an hour and a half to apply. The majority of makeup used is by M.A.C. Cosmetics, one of Cirque’s official sponsors.
Remaining peformances of Corteo take place at the WFCU Centre as follows:
Thursday, May 16, 2019 – 7:30 pm
Friday, May 17, 2019 – 7:30 pm
Saturday, May 18, 2019 – 3:30 pm & 7:30 pm
Sunday, May 19, 2019 – 1:00pm & 5:00pm
For more information about Cirque du Soleil, or to purchase tickets, please visit https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/canada/windsor/corteo/buy-tickets or visit the Eyes On Windsor Corteo Event Listing.