“Paramour,” Cirque du Soleil’s attempt to merge its gravity-defying spectacle with a traditional song-and-story musical, definitely has the best trampoline-powered rooftop chase scene ever turned into a Broadway finale. And the flying, in the same cavernous theater where “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” made its aerial and financial belly flops, easily puts hapless Spidey to shame.
But the multinational giant behind this $25-million experiment already knows its people can do quadruple flying flips off a seesaw springboard. Director Philippe Decouflé and creative director Jean-François Bouchard will not be surprised to learn that the blond shirtless twins who soar over half the orchestra with just wrist ropes and sinew are at least as astonishing as the men who do splits while sticking high onto the light poles with no visible means of support.
Awesome acrobatics and first-rate Vegas / Busby Berkeley visuals are not anything Cirque needs to prove. The objective is to create a new form that adds a different institution beyond the established tourist magnets on 42nd Street.
And as a musical, alas, the awkward story is a Golden-Age Hollywood cliché, the choreography is generic and the serviceable music (by Cirque veterans called Bob & Bill) dips lavishly into the retro-bombastic influences of “Sunset Boulevard,” “Miss Saigon” and the “Superman” movies.
In other words, the elements meant to take the brand into a new hybrid direction just feel pasted onto the illusions Cirque does best. Despite the sophisticated use of twinkling lights, the deco sets reminiscent of Radio City, the multi-screen overkill and projections from a multitude of busy designers, the book is dull padding between the wows created by acrobatic designer Shana Carroll.
The story is a love triangle, in flashback, for A.J., the big-time Hollywood director (Jeremy Kushnier), his “It Girl” discovery from the Midwest (Ruby Lewis, who seems nice but not the requisite blazing star) and the movie’s young composer (Ryan Vona). A.J. is so pompously artistic, despite the ludicrous scenes he recreates from “Cleopatra” and “Calamity Jane,” that he won’t let anyone say the word “movie.” He insists on “film.”
We have to wait until someone has a dream ballet or A.J. has a nightmare in order for the creators to justify the marvelous physical virtuosity. Two male acrobats, one high on a swing, try to pull apart their conflicted beloved to a tango. Inexplicably, a romantic ballad includes a dance for levitating lampshades.
In the program, Decouflé says the mission is “not only for the sense of profound human emotion, but also for the love of art.” All that, and you can order popcorn and wine ($8 each) from a menu at your seat.