In New Orleans, the surreal is commonplace. So Cirque du Soleil and its one-of-a-kind spectacle of costumes, acrobatics and drama should feel right at home when it comes to town Wednesday for a seven-performance run of their show “Quidam.”
“Quidam” follows a little girl as she escapes into a world of make-believe; yet, “There (are) really two stories,” explained Patrick McGuire, portrayer of the “Papa” character in the show.
“There’s the story of the family and … a little girl who disappears into her imagination, and within her imagination there’s the story of, really a tribute to, the everyday person.”
“ ‘Quidam’ represents the ‘everyman,’ ” he said, “but everyone has a unique character in the show just like we all have our unique individuality.”
McGuire, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., picked up circus arts when he started juggling at age 14 and began his career with Cirque du Soleil not long after.
McGuire said he’s now been in roughly 3,000 Cirque shows, 2,000 of which were performances of Quidam.
“That’s nothing though,” McGuire said. “Mark Ward, he plays the principal character in the show, the ‘John’ character … He’s done in the neighborhood of 7,000 shows.”
“And he never called in sick to work in 20 years,” Cirque publicist Jessica Leboeuf added with pride.
Cirque du Soleil, based in Quebec, has 19 shows touring the world and 5,000 employees. The shows are lavish, spectacular narratives with names such as “Zarkana,” “Ovo” and “Alegria.” Ward, also American, and McGuire are among employees from a vast array of countries and cultures who can be found on, and behind, the “Quidam” stage.
“It’s a very multicultural show,” Leboeuf said. “On the backstage side of things we have people from 25 different countries working on the show. On stage it’s about 20 different countries represented.”
McGuire and Leboeuf noted that “Quidam” can be appreciated on many levels and by many types of audience members.
“Rene Magritte, the Belgian surrealist painter, was a huge inspiration for the creators of the show,” McGuire said. “If you look at his paintings and then you watch ‘Quidam,’ you see so many parallels. It’s really super strong.
“The cool thing about the show is you can just sit there and watch it and enjoy the spectacle of it, or you can also try to think about the story line or the symbolism,” McGuire said.
“The show is just so beautiful,” Leboeuf said. “It’s really soulful, and for me it’s the show for Cirque du Soleil that’s most connected to humans. You have human emotions, human-based characters, and I think people can relate to some of the action on stage and some of the characters.”
“Most of the time Cirque du Soleil brings you fantastical surreal characters and settings, whereas on ‘Quidam’ it’s about that little girl, her family and all the eccentric characters that she’s going to meet. So they’re eccentric and they’re not normal but they’re human anyway. ... I think it connects with people. It spoke to me right away, and it still does.”
“It’s as masculine as it’s feminine, it’s as child-like as it is mature — so it’s really a great outing for everyone,” Leboeuf said.
“Quidam” will be at the New Orleans Arena from Wednesday through March 17. There are matinee and evening shows on Saturday and Sunday. Each show is roughly 2 ½ hours long with a brief intermission.
After its stop in New Orleans, “Quidam” heads off to cities including Mobile, Savannah, and Orlando; then, after August, the show heads to Europe, where it will remain for nearly two years.