‘Totem’ is totally awesome

Do you love gymnastics? Do you love glamour? Do you love Cirque du Soleil? Then don’t hesitate. Get away from the panic and confusion of the holidays by making a date with the yellow and blue big top now in Orange County at the Great Park Festival site in Irvine until 29 December 2013.  The theme for this show is evolution and has a definite nod to the reptiles among us.

After December, the show moves on to Santa Monica, opening on 17 January 2014, but Great Park’s great advantage is the low traffic and easy parking ($10 per car).

The disadvantage, if you’ve never been to Great Park, is that you won’t see the big top rising before you from the highway as an obvious directional clue. We zoomed right past the sign for the Great Park, but at night, there is that orange ball in the sky.

“Totem” originally premiered in 2010, but is finally making its rounds in Southern California. The big top seats 2,600 people and took eight days to set up, but will take less than three to tear down for the move to Santa Monica. “Totem” travels in 64 trailers that carry more than 1,200 tones of equipment. The cast includes 26 acrobats, actors, musicians and singers.

After the obligatory clowns who interact with the audience prior to the show, you see what appears to be a skeleton. Using the form of a turtle shell, this is a jungle gym that covers a trampoline and acrobats clad in wonderfully bright unitards take on some high bar and uneven parallel bar high flying feats that you’ll never see in Olympic competition and might not garner a ten for form, but definitely rates a perfect ten for performance and entertaining.

From there, we are off. The theme of water and rising above and below it come in many forms including a witty nod to the evolution from primate to businessman and even to hunky beach dudes. As impressive as the beach dudes are in their single ring and then double rings, the woman who comes out and vamps better than Vanna has the kind of biceps, quadriceps and abs that would make most men cry. She can wrap rings around her totally etched arms and fly through the air impressively.

That woman makes me want to go back to the gym and gymnastics in an extreme way and re-defines the word beach bunny.

Then there’s a duo who combine spinning with gymnastics and, as a connecting comedic transition, a missing link parade. Do you think the business man is named Gordon Gekko? I guess considering the place, maybe it should be James Irvine.

Ever try to ride a unicycle? How about a unicycle that is about 10 feet long? And then how about adding flipping around dishes and catching them on your head.

As the title suggests, there’s also a connection with Native American tradition which is represented by hoop dancers and a roller skating Native American duo who perform daring lifts and spins on a small platform center stage.

This show is more tightly paced then some of the other Cirque shows, such as “Ovo,” making it one of the best. This is a don’t-miss event and Irvine is probably a better place to see it just in terms of driving and parking logistics than say Santa Monica. If you can’t go on a weekday, then Sunday’s evening show is probably your best bet.

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