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The CIRQUE life

There was a time you had to travel far not near to witness Cirque du Soleil, now Syracuse is on the Cirque it.

When Brooke Webb "ran away to join the circus," she did not follow the nostalgic American view of a seemingly outdated metaphor for escaping the tedium of small town America. First of all, she is Australian. Second, she did not run away, she ran to the circus --And, unlike the tradition, she did not catch on as a roadie or other laborer, mucking out stalls and driving tent stakes. And, she did not, out of lack of work or boredom, catch on with a tent show lumbering through town.

What she did was take her 12 years of Broadway experience, her three theater degrees and joined the circus, specifically, Cirque du Soleil, as the artistic director for "Alegria," the touring show that opened in Syracuse on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Webb's responsibility for the show is all encompassing. She has 56 performers from 23 countries, most of whom are world class athletes. They travel in "three coaches and 17 lorries (Australia, remember)" that transport the performers and staff and tons of equipment -- dozens of trunks full of costumes, masks, musical instruments, lights, electronics, free weights, stationary bikes, props, makeup and the "tiger" featured in the metaphorical animal act. (No animals are harmed in this performance.)

She said that it is not unlike directing a stage performance. There is a theme and a story line running through each show, maintained by a number of artistically costumed characters (think Greek chorus) that ties the acts together.

The performers of the "typical" acts such as fire jugglers and contortionists come from circus backgrounds, many from traditional circuses in Europe and Asia. The others -- "We have Olympic medal winners, and many others who competed internationally. Their skills are never an issue. This is just a theatrical interpretation of what they have always trained for."

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