The Quebec-based troupe will perform its look at the American West at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Phillips Center.
This ain’t your grandpa’s John Wayne Western.
The Quebec-based Cirque Éloize will take over the Phillips Center on Saturday, putting a high-flying spin on the traditional Western. Titled “Saloon,” the production begins at 7:30 p.m. and will have the award-winning troupe paint a picture of the American Wild West through the lens of an old-time bar.
Developed by artistic director Jeannot Painchaud, "Saloon" loosely follows a budding love triangle. But according to performer Shena Tschofen, not much beyond that is typical.
Drawing from their childhood in the Magdalen Islands, Painchaud and his cousin, composer Éloi, sought to create a production infused with the spirit of the folk music that underscored their youth. After pitching the concept to director Emmanuel Guillaume, the show’s 11 artists were brought in and encouraged to help tweak the script.
“It wasn’t just the director telling us what to do,” Tschofen, cast in the role of The Warrior, said. “He really took us for who we were and what our talents were and said ‘OK, what can you do, and what can you bring to this show that’s not just what I tell you?’”
The show also differs from traditional circus acts concerning personnel — or lack thereof. What Cirque Éloize lacks in numbers, they make up in skill: In addition to their feats of athleticism, each artist contributes in some way to the live music that paces the production. Tschofen, for example, performs on both the Cyr wheel and the fiddle.
Beyond the visual component, the script borders on Spaghetti Western territory. But the play is intentionally farcical; and behind its Wild Western tropes, Saloon touches on the greater theme of community.
“(Guillame) focused on … making it so over-the-top almost that it kind of makes fun of itself,” Tschofen said, “but I think another thing that he did was that he really wanted the show to … create a message that’s not just ‘we’re doing stereotypes that have already been done.’”
At $25 for a balcony ticket — $10 if you’re a student at the University of Florida —Saloon offers a quirky change of pace on a typical Saturday night. The performers hope to make it one you wouldn't soon forget.
“That’s what makes the show really interesting,” Tschofen said.
“Every artist has their own touch of themselves onstage.”