Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Extremely Impressive: Our Varekai Experience

It’s hard to get over Varekai, the Cirque du Soleil show we watched over the weekend. After the awesome performance, I was already negotiating with Person A if we can watch their next run in the Philippines or head to Macau to watch the regular show. Scratch that, I am saving up for a gazillion of things and I don’t need another vacation.

For those who are not familiar with Cirque du Soleil, it is a Canadian performance company that mixes circus acts with street entertainment. After containing my excitement for a couple of months, July 25 came and we met up with friends at 1:30 in the afternoon to be in time for the 2:30 opening of the Grand Chapiteau at Quirino Grandstand.  This is where the infamous bus hostage drama happened and it is right in front of Luneta, where kilometer-zero is and where Jose Rizal stands.

Isn’t that totem a beautiful sight? Parking is right in front of the tent and do have an umbrella just in case it rains. Security is tight and there’s a ticket booth outside, probably for walk-in viewers. I don’t suggest it. We got our tickets online and make sure to print it out.

Ushers scan your tickets at the main entrance door and while you wait for the show to start there are stalls with Varekai goodies: shirts, hats and souvenir programs. The goods are of great quality, prices start at PhP 1200 for shirts while the program is at PhP 200.

There is also a snack corner if you want to load up on popcorn, nachos and drinks. 

The comfort rooms are located outside the main tent. It is also wise to unload before the show starts since no one can enter the main tent once the performance begins.

There are numerous entrances to the performance area depending on where you are seated. The tent is small hence wherever you are, you still get a detailed picture of the performance. We made the right choice to pick seats from section 200 (Level 1), upper middle area – as this gives us an unobstructed view of the actors minus the stiff neck from looking upwards as compared to the premium seats.

The only thing you’ll miss is audience participation as the show’s comic “hosts” pick from the premium area. Yes, there are 2 comic “hosts” who pop out from nowhere all throughout the show.

And so Varekai begins with the beating of the gypsy drums and the appearance of queer creatures from Varekai. The plot is based loosely on the Greek myth of Icarus, who melts his wings after flying too close to the sun. Rather than drowning in the sea below him, in Varekai Icarus lands inside a lush forest, in which the creatures teach him how to fly again.

The music is lively and has that gypsy, nomadic and romantic feel. Guitar, drums and the voice of the male and female singer in i-have-no-idea-what language dominate the background of the performance. The costumes are very colorful and out of this world.

Let us establish that the acts are extremely impressive. I spent half the time watching with my jaw dropped and the other half clapping my hands. Some of the astonishing acts I remember: aerial dive and contortions in a net performed by Icarus, 3 young acrobats twirling ropes with metal cups (parang sosyal and next level lang ng poi), the enchanting Georgian dance!, hand-balancing on canes and I am yet to find a person who’s not amazed by the Russian swing. Propelled by two Russian swings, acrobats are hurled high into the air, alighting on their partners' wrists or on a landing canvas, sometimes even flying from one moving swing to the other.

Photo: Neil's Wandering Soul

That was the last act and it was 2.5 hours well spent. Manila is treasure trove of good, old restaurants so the next logical thing to do is have dinner in one of the Chinese restaurants along Roxas Boulevard. We headed to Emerald Garden, most foodies tag this place as the best Chinese restaurant in Manila. 

The food is good and for 6 dishes, we only paid PhP 261/person. Value for money! The place is not big on ambiance and dish presentation but the food tastes great. They don’t serve Peking Duck though.

We ended the night at one of the best coffee shops and dessert place in Manila: Diamond Hotel’s Cake Club. We shared Honey Praline, La Opera, Strawberry Fraise and Baked Cheesecake. All four were extremely good. As for their coffee, you can never go wrong with the winner caramel.

In Summary

1. Varekai is worth the money. The storyline is a bit confusing but the music, costumes, props and acts make up for it. 

2. The best seats are at the upper middle section (Section 200) since you get an unobstructed view, without the stiff neck and and less than the Premium price.

June 23 - July 24
Quirino Grandstand

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