Tuesday, April 3, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Clowns are a necessity. Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas productions may not make you think of a traditional circus, but there are clowns in most of these shows and their role is essential.
For example, in the sexy, adult-oriented “Zumanity,” there is Izzy, an over-the-top personality who performs a routine that feels like a late-night infomercial. The product? “Scotch baggies,” a makeshift breast implant that doubles as a convenient cocktail.
“I think the clowns at ‘Zumanity’ offer a time for the crowd to breathe, relax and laugh,” says Shannan Calcutt, who created the character and performs as Izzy. She joined Cirque du Soleil in 2005 shortly before moving to Las Vegas from Vancouver. “'Zumanity’ is a sexy show. You see extraordinary artists with bodies of true perfection and while I think it’s awe-inspiring, it can also be intimidating. We don’t all look like that, move like that, walk like that. The clowns come out and flaunt their flaws so the audience can forget their own.”
Calcutt started developing her clown Izzy at the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre in 1998 and performed as Izzy for the first time at the Ottawa Fringe Festival the following year. When she joined “Zumanity,” she adapted the character for the show, so she’s been playing Izzy for 20 years.
The comedic side of Cirque will be on full display at the Clowns After Midnight performances at the Vegas Theatre Hub this week. The presentation will showcase 11 Cirque artists — none of whom perform as clowns — in 13 acts created during a seven-day workshop series led by Calcutt, who describes the resulting show as “Saturday Night Live” with clowns.
“What’s unique about this program is that it features 11 artists that have all taken three workshops with me. They were hand-selected by Cirque do Soleil’s senior artistic director, Pierre Parisien, to go through the three-level program, which I specifically developed for this troupe,” says Calcutt, who has taught clown and comedy workshops throughout Canada, Australia and the United States since 2000. “They’re all working courageously out of their comfort zones. I couldn’t be more proud of them!”
The Clowns After Midnight performances began as two sold-out, late-night soirees, after which Parisien thought the improv clowns should have another opportunity to perform for a live audience. In comedy, Calcutt says, the only way to perfect your act is to work it out in front of a real audience.
“It’s sink or swim time,” she says. “So we’re presenting four more shows, three late-night and one matinee experience.”
Clowns After Midnight will start at 11:59 p.m. April 4, 6 and 7 at the Vegas Theatre Hub (705 Las Vegas Blvd. North, 702-569-9070). The Sunday show on April 8 includes a party bus (with Champagne and clowns) from the Orleans to the show starting at noon. For more information on all shows, visit vegastheatrehub.com.