Cirque de Soleil Zarkana Review

I had the pleasure of seeing Zarkana last night, three days before its official opening on Wednesday. The show tells the story of Zark, a magician who has lost his powers, on his quest to rescue his girlfriend who was kidnapped. It was unclear who kidnapped her and who the bad guys are—was it the witch in the tree? The Medusa-like snake performer? Or the spider? Or are all three the incarnation of the same woman? No matter. Plot in a Cirque de Soleil performance is about as necessary as a storyline in porn—it loosely helps to define the story, but we’re all there for the action.

On that action front, Zarkana doesn’t disappoint. The show, which runs through October 8 at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, features some impressive reverse juggling, trapeze acts and a gorgeous sequence of banquine (acrobats bouncing off of each other). While some acts felt familiar, like the Cyr Wheel that was also in Kooza, and others fell flat, like the Flags that were no better than your local high school’s flag corps, some like the Ladders had me holding my breath. Just when I was thinking that the male performer who balances a ladder using pure strength must be glad this his part in the show was over, he came back and did something even more outrageous. Unfortunately on the night we attended the Hand Balancing performer failed to perform. From what I can tell, he came out on cue, then ran backstage never to appear again. We didn’t get an explanation and it was a big disappointment that the penultimate act failed to show.

The stage, before the start of the show

The setting at Radio City is one of the more gorgeous Cirque de Soleil sets I’ve ever seen. The lighting designer, Alain Lortie, makes full use of the ceiling and interior of the orchestra so you really do feel as though you’re transported into a creepy nether world.

For a show that is billed as a rock opera, the music is lackluster. It was hard to make out what the singers were saying, which is a big reason why the plot is indecipherable. Even if I could understand the lyrics, the songs themselves fail to make an impression.

So would I recommend seeing Zarkana? Yes, if you’re a Cirque de Soleil junkie or a newbie or if you’re looking for an entertaining show to see. But if the $47+ ticket price is a stretch for you, you aren’t missing much if you sit this one out.

Tickets are available on

I was given free tickets to review this show.

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