Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The House of Dancing Water. May 9, 2011.

City of Dreams Dancing Water Theater, Macau, Section 300, Seat H311 (HK$680).

This is not a concert review.

Ling suggested this show as part of our short side-trip to Macau. Advertisements say the production costs $2B Hong Kong Dollars (about US$250M), so my curiosity is certainly piqued. The show is created and directed by Franco Dragone.

I came away thinking this is nothing more than an acrobat show over a large water tank with special audiovisual effects, and not the best acrobatic show at that. As to the $250M, it must be a bit like how the Metropolitan Opera’s Ring staging costs $15M: something not quite living up to the expectations that come with such huge budgets. And in this case I hope it includes the apparently purpose-built theater which I estimate seats a couple of thousand people (2000 seats per some web pages), otherwise someone got ripped off.

When you sit through the show, you know there is a story they are trying to tell. Indeed their official webpage does provide a plot. I didn’t read it before the show, and even after watching it I must say nothing remotely like what is described in the plot happens. You know there are good people and bad people, and that a hero is trying to reach a heroine, but you have no idea why he eventually succeeds. I can certainly tolerate a lot of missing lines and poetic license, but the actually enacted story is simply beyond redemption (well, a little strong, but not entirely unfair). I can’t avoid comparing this with a ballet which manages to tell a coherent story, usually.

The staging is quite impressive, though. They manage to move solid platforms onto the water surface very quickly, and on top of that put in many fountains. And the audio-visual effects are quite impressive. There are a lot of aerial activities with all kinds of wiring harnesses. I kept worrying things would get tangled up and to their credit that never happened. And there are some very high dives (maybe from over 100 feet) that are quite spectacular. The motorcycle show is also quite impressive, six of them zipping around a very small stage doing coordinated jumps. I image there is a lot of computer controls and those seem to work very well. Also, there must be a lot of physical demands on the athletes.

However, the “precision” aspects are not quite there. For instance, there is this cage with 20 or so athletes/dancers doing choreographed movements, but they all seem to be doing their own things. (Compare with ballet or synchronized swimming.) Now if I am hanging on someone’s arm while dangling 50 or so feet in the air, precision is perhaps not the first thing I concentrate on. But if they are not good enough to do that, they shouldn’t try.

A great disappointing is the music. It probably is original, but it is quite boring. In my view they should spend some funds commissioning someone to compose (say) musical-like music. What we have is an artificial blend of western- and oriental-style music. As in a Cirque de Soleil show, the music is a combination of live and taped. At curtain call the four musicians came out to take a bow.

The show uses a contortionist who can bend his limbs in strange ways and fit into small spaces. I usually getting a laugh by making fun of people that way somehow degrading, and feel the same way here. Of course that may be one way for the gentleman to make a decent living.

My overall opinion is this would be a good show if it doesn’t pretend to be more than its creators are capable of making it to be. In that sense it has many parallels with a CdS show, trying to go beyond a traditional circus or acrobat show, but not quite making it.

So, if you find yourself in Macau and really can’t think of anything to do, this show is for you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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