There is only one word for the current Cirque du Soleil live arena production of Delirium, playing its final performance tonight at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC; and that word is “Wow,” or maybe, “Oh, wow.”

This magnificent multimedia musical extravaganza is a crowd-pleasing combination of a technopop concert, a circus, and a spectacular lightshow, featuring superlative singers, hard-rocking musicians, a stiltwalker, high-flying aerialists and acrobats, hand-balancers, dancers, and clowns. Delirium is a veritable three-ring circus all crammed into a single ring, with as many as six singers, four actors, 11 musicians, 18 dancers, and eight acrobats occupying the stage at the same time.

Montréal-based Cirque du Soleil’s first arena event, brilliantly conceived and imaginatively directed and designed by Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon, is a rare feast for the eye and ear — all unfolding on a 130 feet wide by 20 feet deep stage, with giant tulle curtains/projection screens at each end of the stage. Lemieux and Pilon have created a splendid set and a dazzling multimedia program for this remarkable evening of fantasy in which a lonely balloonist floats back and forth over the stage, trying to overcome his fears and, apparently, constantly scouring the surrealistic landscape below for the woman of his dreams.

Dave St-Pierre has ingeniously choreographed the show’s acrobatic dances; costume designer Michel Robidas has dressed the cast in an eye-catching array of fantastical fashions; and Québec producer, composer, and arranger Francis Collard has expertly re-mixed 20 of the troupe’s most striking musical moments, originally penned by Violaine Corradi, René Dupéré, and Benoît Jutras. Lighting designer Alain Lortie, props and decorative elements designer Anne-Séguin Poirier, and sound designer Yves Savoie also help keep life pulsing through the production.

Some highlights of Delirium include:



  • A 20-minute mini-concert by the internationally renowned singer and songwriter Nitza, performing five of her own compositions. Dressed to thrill in a slinky red dress with a plunging neckline, Nitza has the soaring voice of a pop diva.

  • The sultry song stylings of Brazilian Italo-Cuban singer Dessy Di Lauro.

  • The alternately comic and creepy antics of stiltwalker Adam Read.

  • The percussion pyrotechnics of El Hadji Fall Diouf and Pape Abdou Karim Diouf, two talented brothers from Senegal, and animated instrumental accompaniment by band leader and keyboardist Ric’key Pageot and percussionist Raffaele Artiglieri.

  • The hot licks of Gaïa (singer Élie Haroun, drummer Sacha Daoud, bass guitarist André Faleiros, and percussionist Kullak Viger Rojas), which mixes soul, funk, and electro jazz riffs with melodies from the group’s Brazilian and Peruvian roots. The rhythms that they hammer out on a variety of drums (bongo, cajon, conga, tables, and timbales) are electrifying.

  • The incredible aerial ballets, hand-balancing routines, and other acrobatics that simply have to be seen to be believed. Dancer Marek Berlin and acrobats Michael Duffy and Serge “Kehino” Takri and their cohorts are all professionals performing at the top of their craft.

  • And the incredible gyrations of hula-hoop artist Irina Akimova as she added hoop after hoop to her routine and, ultimately, spun more hoops by herself than the typical twirling time of a marching band can get in motion simultaneously.

The worst that I can say about Delirium is that the show is so LOUD that only a few words of the English lyrics are intelligible. Ticket buyers with delicate eardrums would be wise to bring ear plugs. The best that I can say is, Delirium is not just a show; it is an EVENT; and Cirque du Soleil-style entertainments are rare in this part of the United States. Don’t miss it.

The RBC Center presents Cirque du Soleil® in Delirium Thursday, April 13, at 8 p.m. at 1400 Edwards Mill Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina. $69.50-$99.50. RBC Center Box Office: 919/861-2323. Group Sales (for groups of 20 or more): 919/861-5457. RBC Center: [inactive 2/07]. Cirque du Soleil®:[inactive 9/07]. Nitza: