A nine-meters wide bronze clown shoe is the only hint that there’s something out of this world inside an enormous, nondescript concrete building in Montreal. The building is home to what many consider the most successful entertainment company in the world: Cirque du Soleil.
The huge company headquarters house practice facilities the size of airplane hangars where members of the cast work on their routines. More than 300 costumers, engineers and makeup artists sew, design and construct exotic costumes with a stage life of 10 to 12 years. In fact, the production staff often makes innovations in costuming, like the waterproof makeup needed to put on O, a show mainly performed inside a 6-million liter pool specially designed and engineered by Cirque du Soleil employees. A team of 32 headhunters and casting specialists who recruit performers from all over the world and develop their talents is one of the company’s key, internal resources. The department maintains a database of 20,000 names, any of which could be called upon at any time to join the cast of 2,700 performers who speak 27 languages.
Shows with exotic names like Mystere, La Nouba, O, Dralion, Varekai and Zumanity communicate through their style and tone that they’re about more than just entertainment. Cirque du Soleil designs productions with distinct personalities that evoke audiences’ respect, amazement, inspiration and reflection. As one member of the cast explained, “The goal of a Cirque du Soleil performer is not just to execute a quadruple somersault, it’s to make it a manifestation of internal spirituality. Like in dance, the goal is… to create a language, a conversation with the audience.”
And audiences have responded. Even with entrance prices that start at $45 and top off at $360, the company sells 97 percent of seats at every performance. That rings in at about $500,000 worth of sales per week for Cirque du Soleil, with annual earnings of $100 million...