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Fine Arts: Cirque du Soleil Brings the Magic of “Totem” to Santa Monica

By Jenny Peters

The circus is in town! Tuesday evening, January 21, 2014, was a star-studded night at the premiere of Cirque du Soleil’s Totem at the Santa Monica Pier. Celebrities turned out in droves to see the show, first hitting the Tapis Rogue (red carpet), including Neil Patrick Harris, Alison Janney, Jason Alexander, Paris Hilton and Mario Lopez.

In the carnival atmosphere outside the Grand Chapiteau, the opening-night guests were entertained by strolling players. Beautiful live trees handed out green clown noses, which children and adults alike quickly popped onto their faces, adding to the festive atmosphere. Once inside, free champagne and popcorn livened up an already excited crowd. Body painters from MAC created masterpieces on models in the style of characters from Totem.

By the time the show began (an understandable 20 minutes late due to a packed house) Jenna Elfman, Ray Liotta, Michael Pena and Neve Campbell had joined an audience crackling with anticipation (and popcorn).

The show itself was a visual and aural spectacle, full of incredible acrobatics, held together with a loosely incorporated theme of evolution. Outstanding performances in the first act included frogs on parallel bars, bowl-tossing unicyclists and twins spinning cloths. Darwin even joined the Ringmaster to drive the evolutionary theme home.

Unicyclists performed astonishing tricks in unison during the "Totem" show.

Unicyclists performed astonishing tricks in unison during the “Totem” show.

During intermission, guests were offered chocolate-covered marshmallows on lines cast by fisherman. A delicious treat, but impossible to remove without creating a chocolate mess!

The second act opening focused on Darwin, the comedians and the Ringmaster, which lead to an amazing fight/flirt by a couple on the high trapeze. Indians on roller skates and board-bouncing astronauts led to the grand finale.

In the Cirque du Soleil touring show style of the past thirty years, all of the performers were simply incredible, while the theme sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t to hold the show together. A few comedy bits seem out of place in the middle of the acrobatics, but overall the show itself was stupendous.

These Russian "bears" put on a spectacular display of strength.

These Russian “bears” put on a spectacular display of strength.

The after party included a DJ playing the soundtrack to Totem, hula hoop girls, and more champagne. While exiting the party, I overheard a guest exclaim, “Wow. Now I feel like I need to work out more!”

Totem is performing Tuesdays through Sundays at the Santa Monica Pier until March 16, 2014. Tickets are available online at or at the box office in front of the blue and yellow big top starting at noon on show days.

All photos courtesy Cirque du Soleil; Neil Patrick Harris photo by Matt Beard.

About Jenny Peters (168 Articles)
Jet Set Jen is the brainchild of Jenny Peters, a longtime freelance journalist whose career has spanned everything considered "Lifestyle" reporting, from movies and celebrities to fashion and fast cars, with plenty of food, wine and travel thrown in too. She currently contributes regularly to USA Today's,, New York Magazine, Coast Magazine, Bask Magazine and numerous other newspapers, magazines and websites worldwide. She is a founding and voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (, which annually honors the year's top films with the Critics' Choice Awards. Jenny and her crack cadre of reporters at Jet Set Jen offer up opinions, suggestions and insider scoops on the best that the world has to offer, to keep you on the cutting edge of that ever elusive pursuit of life, liberty, happiness – and fun, fun, fun.

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