Brent Batten: Collier County as a three-ring cirque


I’ve got to learn French.

Or Spanish or Italian or clown or whatever it is they were speaking and singing at Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria at Germain Arena last week.

Here I was thinking that I was watching incredible acrobats, musicians and singers delivering amazing performances punctuated by sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always clever clowns but what I was really seeing was a morality play about birds and jealousy and evolution from monarchy to democracy and such.

I had no idea.

For instance, it wasn’t until after seeing the show and visiting the Alegria web site that I learned that the guy in the red tuxedo is “Fleur.” The website tells me Fleur is “unreliable, unearthly and unpredictable. He can appear fun-loving, but the beak-nosed, hunch-backed Fleur is jealous, petty and angry. He is rotten to the core yet elegantly dressed.” Gee, I thought he was just the ringmaster.

All of the characters in Alegria _ Fleur says it’s pronounced al-a-GREEE-ya but who knows, he’s so unreliable _ have intricate backstories not apparent to the casual observer.

The problem is, these backstories don’t play well outside of France or Spain or Italy or wherever.

Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria is a traveling show with performances upcoming in Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom, to name a few.

What they should do is tailor the characters’ histories and personas to fit where they’re performing.

In London, for instance, the guy spinning the flaming knives is no longer, “tribal and magical,” or “seductively dangerous,” as described in the program, but instead is a street hooligan setting fire to a record warehouse.

The concept would have worked well in Southwest Florida.

Never far from the stage of Alegria are the “Nostalgic Old Birds.” They “observe the goings on as though they were still young and beautiful and the future was still theirs. They admire their reflections in mirror-less frames but are only empty shells, shadows of their former selves. They are the old aristocracy, still convinced of their power and beauty.”

You wouldn’t even have to change the narrative. Just change one word. When Alegria plays in Southwest Florida, they become the “Nostalgic Old Developers.”

In Alegria, Tamir is, “always available and ever helpful, Tamir ... appears when he is needed, only to suddenly disappear when he has fulfilled his mission.” For the Germain Arena shows, Tamir changes his name to Dwight Brock.

The heroine of Alegria is the “White Singer,” who, we’re told, “echoes in song everything she sees around her. She sings of melancholy and despair, of joy and happiness.” In Cirque du Collier, the White Singer is Georgia Hiller, at least as far as Hiller’s supporters are concerned.

The anti-heroine is the “Black Singer.”

“While she too expresses in song the atmosphere of Alegría, there is a wickedness about her.” That would be Georgia Hiller, to her detractors.

With the start of school less than a week away, stores are filled with youngsters and their families buying outfits and supplies, they can be seen practicing for school teams and bands. Parks are abuzz with activity as kids try to squeeze as much as possible into the last days of summer. Alegria ala Southwest Florida has a role for them, too, that of the “Nymphs.”

“The nymphs are youthful and ethereal. Their exuberance is infectious and their enchanting dance can melt the hardest of hearts.”

Finally, there are the clowns. They are, “the social commentators of Alegría,” and, “philosophers of absurdity. Endearing, comical and child-like, they turn the world into a circus.”

Now, who can we get to be the clown?

Connect with Brent Batten at

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