CLEVELAND -- Cirque du Soleil has entertained millions of fans across the world with their unique blend of athleticism, acrobatic stunts and colorful, eye-catching, elaborate costumes, and there are plenty of all of those characteristics in the show, Toruk - The First Flight.
Inspired by James Cameron’s blockbuster movie, Avatar, Toruk brought its blend of entertainment to Quicken Loans Arena last weekend to tell the story of Pandora long before the time the Academy Award-nominated epic began.
“Our show takes place 3,000 years before the movie, so if you’ve seen the movie and enjoy the universe of Pandora and the Moon, then our show kind of tells the depiction of what happened before with the ancestors of what you saw in the movie,” said Jeremiah Hughes, a Toronto native who plays one of the lead characters in Toruk, Ralu.
“The movie shows the Toruk, the Toruk Makto, this idea of a person being able to ride this giant beast, but that was the sixth rider in the movie. We’re telling the story of the very first rider who was brave enough to try and accomplish this impossible task. Our show is kind of this discovering Pandora. Our story is going across the Moon, meeting different tribes, seeing different ways of life and seeing large-scale acrobatic acts within this environment.”
Behind the scenes with Cirque du Soleil's Toruk - The First Flight
Although Toruk has been on tour for nearly two years, work on the adaptation began shortly after the release of Avatar in 2009.
Every, single detail of the show, from the props to the colors used in all costumes, had to be designed in Cirque du Soleil’s Montreal headquarters, and then, approved and produced in conjunction with Lightstorm Entertainment before it could be added to the Toruk show.
“It took a good couple years for our show to come out, but that’s because they wanted to do this correctly,” Hughes said. “This speaks to the length. It took years to go over concept. It took months to have actual sketches designed and built, and then, months with the artists actually developing and creating this world.
“Lightstorm would say, ‘Yes, that belongs,’ or ‘That doesn’t belong on Pandora.’ Then, they’ll give the go-ahead, which then goes back to Montreal and creative so they can send it back to us. There’s a real level of continuity on the planet, so things might take a little bit longer to be created so that it’s done correctly.”
While development of the show took the better part of five years, about one-third of the time Cameron spent working on Avatar, Hughes feels blessed to be able to bring the show to audiences, which will continue in Philadelphia, Hartford and Dayton throughout March.
“It’s an absolute honor to be able to tell this story,” Hughes said. “I love it. It’s a beautiful world we get to play in. There’s rich characters. It’s a rich environment, and it’s such an honor to actually be inside a world like that, to be able to step into an alternate reality.
“For two hours, we transform the space, and our goal is to really have people feel like they’re on Pandora, so I get to live another life for two hours a night, and it’s a beautiful world. Pandora is magical.”