More than 8 million people have seen Cirque du Soleil’s "Corteo" since the show premiered in Montreal in 2005. None, however, have seen it like it’s about to be shown Friday through Sunday, March 2-4, at New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center.

After closing its 3,500th performance in Bogota, Colombia, in 2015, one of the company’s most beloved shows began a radical transformation.

“'Corteo' has always been a very intimate show,” company manager Amelie Lavoie said. “It sounds like it would be sad — the story of a clown who is watching his own funeral — but instead, it’s this powerful celebration of the things that make life beautiful and magical. The show is so playful and festive.”

In the past, the show was performed only in a big top circus tent. For over a year, however, Cirque du Soleil has been working to adapt the show in a way that would work for a big arena, while not losing the magic and intimacy that has made it so successful.

To accomplish this feat, a stage and acrobatic structure have been created unlike any in the company’s history, allowing the audience to sit on both sides, just like in a big top, organizers said.

And what wonders will the audience see emerging from this stage? In true Cirque du Soleil style, expect a wide array of whimsical, awe-inspiring acrobatic feats.

Performers do everything from bounce on 600-pound beds that move on rotating platforms to hang from giant glittering chandeliers.

“We take circus elements to another level,” said Lavoie, who said one of the most beautiful moments of the show is when one of the main characters is transported into the crowd with the help of helium balloons.

“One of my favorite acts is called the Suspended Pole,” she said. It’s the first time we’re going to be doing it in the U.S., and it’s really incredible.”

Among the cast of more than 100 eager to debut the new show in New Orleans is professional juggler Svetlana Tsarkova.

For five months, eight hours a day, six days a week, Tsarkova has been working to perfect her act. Along with two other jugglers, she blends acrobatics with juggling rings, hoops, clubs and cloths.

“I have a few tricks that no one in the world can do,” she said.

However, she said, the hardest part of the show is the costume changes.

“There’s a part in the show that I change costumes three times in three minutes,” she laughed. “It’s a bit crazy.”

The show’s more than 260 costumes help set the characters in what Cirque du Soleil calls “a mysterious space between heaven and earth” that has a carnival-like atmosphere. European influences are prevalent — from the show’s enormous, baroque-style curtains hand-watercolored in France, to the four stations of live musicians and singers who use an invented language best described as a mix of Portuguese, French and Italian.

“I tell people it’s like getting the chance to run away to Europe for $35,” Lavoie said. “It’s for anyone, really, who’s looking to get away for a few hours and forget about daily life — to laugh, see something truly beautiful and maybe remember what it was like to be a kid for a while.”


"Corteo" by Cirque du Soleil

When: March 2-4

Where: Smoothie King Center

Tickets: $35 and up