Friday, April 20, 2018
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Cirque du Soleil's tent show returns to St. Petersburg this fall with 'Kooza'

For the first time since 2005, Cirque du Soleil is bringing a coveted tent show, Kooza, to St. Petersburg in November.

A decade ago when Cirque first pitched its trademark blue and yellow Grand Chapiteau in the parking lot at Tropicana Field, it drew sellout crowds from Tampa Bay and beyond to see the Montreal-based company's new-age shows, which combine daredevil acrobatics with artful productions. Many of those who attended were also discovering downtown St. Petersburg for the first time.

Starting with Quidam in 2002, Cirque contributed to the city's renaissance as an arts and culture center, with near annual visits. But after Alegria in 2004 and Varekai in 2005, the touring tent shows stopped coming.

Instead, Saltimbanco and a return engagement of Alegria played the Tampa Bay Times Forum, which seats more people but lacks the atmosphere and intimacy of the big top.

Now the big top is back. From Nov. 8 through a yet-to-be-determined closing date, Kooza will be installed in the parking lot of Tropicana Field under the 2,500-seat Grand Chapiteau, which is white instead of the familiar blue and yellow for this tour.

Kooza, which premiered in 2007, was written and directed by David Shiner, best known for his performance as a clown in the Broadway mime revue Fool Moon. "The show doesn't take itself too seriously, but it's very much about ideas, too," Shiner said in a program note. "As it evolves, we are exploring concepts such as fear, identity, recognition and power."

The title is derived from the Sanskrit word koza that means "box." The show's music was inspired by "Western pop music, from 1970s funk to orchestral music," composer Jean-Francois Cote said. "I also drew upon traditional Indian music and film scores from the 1940s and 1950s, a period I'm particularly fond of."

Kooza is one of 21 Cirque shows around the world, including seven resident shows in Las Vegas and La Nouba in Orlando. Before arriving in St. Petersburg (the company's website incorrectly says Tampa), it is playing Phoenix (where it is now), Houston and Dallas. Ticket prices "are not finalized," a spokeswoman said. They go on sale July 9. See cirquedusoleil.com.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

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