‘Wintuk” has come to town just in time to herald the inevitable arrival of snow. While we await the real thing, there is a veritable storm of the fake variety ready to fall from the rafters upon the audience at the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden. This family-friendly show produced by the folks at French Canadian-originated Cirque du Soleil is making its third (of a proposed annual) visit to the Big Apple. As this was my first time to see “Wintuk” I cannot attest to the changes (if any) that have been made since it first appeared. I found it an enjoyable entertainment made more so my being able to share it with six year-old grandson, Ben, and his parents.
Although Cirque du Soleil has been mostly defined over the years by its otherworldly/esoteric visions, “Wintuk” is conceived and designed in simpler terms and performed as a child’s fantasy. Essentially wistful, whimsical, and even gentle in its presentation, it also contains many of the elements and dynamics of a traditional circus presentation, but set within a plot that could easily be followed by a six year-old: A young boy wishes for a snow day. And, thanks to a beneficence of a singing shaman with the requisite magical powers, he is spirited away with his companions — a fearless young girl and a yellow-bellied man — in the company of two awesomely large white birds to the fantastical northern kingdom of Wintuk.
The extravagantly costumed show is divided into two acts, with the second Act II being faster moving and more exciting. The setting for Act I is a cityscape with tall buildings and even laundry hanging on clothes lines. Not surprisingly the clothes lines become useful for an acrobatic clown. A huge ramp in the center of the stage allows the street kids to glide, jump, and spin about on their roller blades and skate boards. The very wide stage is populated with some wondrous puppets and extraordinary people doing amazing things. Given the modest narrative, the idea to keep the show in perpetual motion is a necessity.
Getting most of the laughs are a quartet dressed as poodles. They cavort in and around the various acts including a hard-hat construction crew that make astonishing use of a very long and narrow trampoline. An impressive special effect is a raging wind storm that makes the buildings sway and the animated street lamps wiggle.
Snow-flaked mountains provide the backdrop (along with atmospheric projections) of a white-on-white winter wonderland where the resident ice queen descends a grand stairway that the late Flo Ziegfeld would recognize. he has a way with some very large hula hoops. Notwithstanding the thunderous sound of erupting geysers that send cascades of steam into the air, the most exciting action is provided by a pair of giant rampaging snow monsters who do battle with a platoon of spear-carrying (Himalayan?) warriors.
A plus is the live music provided by musicians who are perched on the sides of the auditorium. Graceful aerialists and a very pretty juggler with purple hair had me captivated. As for the children, they couldn’t have been happier as the skies open up to welcome the snow. ***
“Wintuk,” through Sunday, January 3, WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, 4 Penn Plaza. $30 to $220. 212-307-4100.