There was so much eye candy at Cirque du Soleil's "Toruk: The First Flight," it was hard to know where to look first -- especially when I had a role to play.
The new show at Consol Energy Center is subtitled "Inspired by James Cameron's 'Avatar,' " including the land-sky-sea environments and blue humanoid Na'vi denizens of the planet Pandora -- the setting for "Toruk" and for the No. 1 global box-office film of all time ("Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is No. 1 in the USA).
The arena-sized show invites patrons to download the "Toruk: The First Flight" app and check in, which takes a few minutes. (Suggestion: grab the app before you arrive; doing it 5 minutes before the start of the show was an distraction.) The app will then send you messages to have your phone handy and then ask you to point your screen toward the stage
I have to admit, it was weird having my cell phone taken over to display color or glaring eyes that then became part of the effects in a scene, adding to the depth of the production (at Consol, "Toruk" used the floor of the arena, one short side and everything in between (the top two tiers of seats were blacked out, adding to the perception of an enormity of scale).
I found the anticipation and participation of using the app somewhat distracting, and I was annoyed when I got a reminder about visiting the merchandise kiosk during intermission. But it was a new experience on top of experiencing a new show. It would definitely have been more fun if I had downloaded the app and known more about how it worked in advance.
The show itself was less circus and more story than previous Cirque shows I've been to, which I rather liked. The performers combined dance moves, aerial artistry and amazing acrobatic skill as part of a trio's quest to save Pandora's Tree of Souls.
With a narrator to guide us (everyone else spoke Na'vi), the story unfolded amid a kaleidoscope of color and ever-changing environments. Highlights included "War Horse"-style creature puppets and ginormous fanning flowers. The waterless waves and volcano climbers were among the more stunning effects that involved projections, and the Toruk title creature took the prize for coolest puppet among many.
"Toruk: The First Flight" might seem like sensory overload, but is there such a thing as too much eye candy?