Watching TORUK – The First Flight on stage at the Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth doesn’t feel like watching a show. It’s more like a simulation experiment. The lights go down and rise again and when they do, you’re not in Georgia. You’re on Pandora.
It makes sense. One of Cirque du Soleil’s newest shows, TORUK re-imagines the world of Avatar, the 2009 award-winning sci-fi film where humans could only step into the alien world through their avatar. If the experience is surreal, it’s no less mesmerizing. Cirque du Soleil pulls out all the stops to recreate the flora, fauna and people of Pandora.
The scene is set thousands of years before the opening of Avatar, so you don’t need to have seen the movie to enjoy the show. The story involves three friends on a quest to find five mystic objects and then face the dragon-like creature known as Toruk to save the planet’s sacred Tree of Souls. Elaborate makeup and costuming recreate the blue-skinned warrior tribes with incredible realism.
This show is a little different from most other Cirque du Soleil performances. A narrator opens the story and fills the audience in at key points along the way. There are no clowns or comic vignettes sprinkled throughout as is common with Cirque. Instead, it’s a steady narrative with a definite and climactic ending.
The story progresses against an elaborate backdrop. Light, shadow, projections, puppetry and more populate the world with animals and vivid color. Synchronized technology creates the illusion of natural phenomena like earthquakes, stars, fire, tides and waterfalls.
The world famous Cirque du Soleil acrobats seem to defy gravity, moving seamlessly through the simulated world. There are nearly always several Na’vi performers on stage at a given time, so whether it’s tumbling or contortion, keep an eye out across the stage so you don’t miss any parts of the act.
The show offers a companion app for free download to enhance the experience. Find it by searching for TORUK – The First Flight in your app store. Before the show, you can swipe through the world of Pandora searching for artifacts or go behind the scenes of the production. Once you arrive, you can check in by entering your show date and seat number. The app has a list of times throughout the show when you can open it for an interactive component that lets you create light or shows you an extended aspect to a scene from the show.
TORUK – The First Flight is playing at the Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth through Sunday. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. each night through Saturday with an extra matinee at 4 p.m. Saturday and at 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sunday. Regular adult tickets start at around $43, but there are discounts for students, military and groups of 12 or more.
Cirque does a good job of making sure every seat in the house is a good one, sending performers into the stands and spreading their show across the arena, so even if you’re farther from the stage, you’ll have a great view of this other-worldly spectacle.