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Nonstop treats for the senses take flight with Cirque du Soleil's 'Toruk'

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

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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

TreeI 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?

Remaining showtimes: 7:30 p.m. through Friday; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5 p.m. next Sunday; www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk, www.ticketmaster.com or 1-800-653-8000.

 

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Zachary Quinto, good Pittsburgh son

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

With "Star Trek: Beyond" set to release July 22, Zachary Quinto has been a man about town -- including his hometown, apparently. The Green Tree native accompanied his mom on a shopping trip and posted evidence on his Instagram account.QuintoInstagram

 A couple of weeks ago, he was seen challenging his "Star Trek" castmate Zoe Saldana (Spock vs. Uhuru) on the Spike network show "Lip Sync Battle" (see below). He'll also be seen in the upcoming "Snowden" as lawyer/journalist Glenn Greenwald. 

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Viola Davis says so long to Denzel Washington and Pittsburgh as 'Fences' ends filming here

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

The Paramount production of August Wilson's "Fences" wrapped filming in Pittsburgh yesterday, and actress Viola Davis said a Facebook farewell to her co-star and director Denzel Washington. No release date is set for the film.

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Stephen King's untold story

Written by Maria Sciullo on .

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Author Stephen King's appearance at the Sewickley Academy Rea Auditorium Wednesday night was an opportunity to tell some stories (funny and scary, some funny-scary). It was a fundraiser for Sewickley's Penguin Bookshop, part of his 12-city tour on behalf of independent stores.

King waxed nostalgic about his previous trips to Pittsburgh ("and I'm just so glad to be back"), which began with his collaboration with George Romero. Mr. King wrote the screenplay for the anthology film, "Creepshow," and Mr. Romero directed it onscreeen.

The latter even talked Mr. King into playing the part of a hick who makes an unfortunate, otherworldly discovery. In order to make a fake Steve head, special effects guru Tom Savini needed to make a plaster cast, and the process was as claustrophobia-inducing as one might imagine.

Still, when it came time for actor E.G. Marshall to have a similar cast done, King showed up to watch someone else suffer as he had. 

"I have never told this in public before," he said, laughing, "but I don't care; he's dead and I'm alive."

As the plaster set, he said, Marshall motioned for a pad and pencil he'd placed nearby before the procedure began. "He writes in capital letters BOURBON," King said. "They got an eye-dropper and Tom Savini himself got it to him."

 

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GRAMMYS "Grammycam" offers a new point of view

Written by Maria Sciullo on .

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Let's just hope none of the winners takes their GRAMMY award into the bathroom.

This year's GRAMMY event on CBS (Monday night) features a new twist on the notion that pointing a live video camera at something must always be a good thing. We'll see.

Because winners of the Recording Academy's biggest tribute don't take home the actual gramophone-shaped statuettes at the end of the night (the real, gold-plated zinc ones are engraved and sent to them later), CBS was allowed to embed disassembled GoPro cameras in the base of the stand-in awards.

According to Fast Company, the tiny, battery-powered cameras will provide streaming video that can be incorporated in the network's multiplatform GRAMMY Live coverage.

"Witness Greatness" is the theme of this year's awards broadcast. Hmmmm. Given the unpredictable combination of recording artists and live video, we have a feeling viewers will be witnessing a lot more than that.

 

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