The circus is ready to roll: KOOZA kicks off on Thursday

What kid doesn't fantasize about joining a circus? Tuesday morning, the Redmond Reporter met two lucky souls for whom that fantasy became a reality, backstage at Cirque du Soleil's eye-catching big top in King County's Marymoor Park.

Dance performer Mike Tyus practices on stage for Cirque Du Soleil's production of KOOZA at Marymoor Park in Redmond on Tuesday.

What kid doesn’t fantasize about joining a circus?

Tuesday morning, the Redmond Reporter met two lucky souls for whom that fantasy became a reality, backstage at Cirque du Soleil’s eye-catching big top in King County’s Marymoor Park.

Seattle-born Mike Tyus lived and worked in Los Angeles before landing the major role of The Trickster in Cirque du Soleil’s “KOOZA,” running June 3-July 11 here in Redmond.

Tyus and wardrobe manager Jason Brass, originally from Tampa, Fla., both said they fell into their jobs at the right time and place and still pinch themselves to believe they are part of the acclaimed, Montreal-based, Cirque organization.

Both described the cast of “KOOZA” as “like a family,” albeit with members from 16 different countries.

Tyus, a dancer, has played The Trickster in “KOOZA” for a year-and-a-half. When he auditioned in L.A., he thought the Cirque was “too awesome” for someone like him.

“To this day, I’m just shocked and feel very blessed,” he said.

“With my character, I have a lot of artistic freedom to play with different aspects of the character and his movement. I also play off the audience — a good audience is always going to make for a better show.”

The other main character in “KOOZA” is called The Innocent.

Tyus explained, “The Innocent represents everybody. We’re all in our own little world. Then we meet this person, my character, who shows us around the world. It can be scary or it can be beautiful. You find laughter, joy … it’s a coming-of-age story, a growing-up story. The audience can see themselves in both characters, both being naive and being sly.”

Along with that story, Tyus noted, “there are great costumes, music, lyrics, dancing. The acts are so enjoyable, it’s a roller coaster of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs.'”

As much as he admires his fellow performers’ artistry onstage, Tyus said it’s fun hanging out with them offstage, too.

“In our off time, Cirque du Soleil puts on events to go to — clubs, bars, the zoo, museums. It’s a very close-knit group.”

But he’s not bored while waiting to go onstage, either, Tyus said.

“I spend one and a half hours in makeup. I get to listen to music, do some art on my face, get about an hour to warm up, get into character, get moving and stretching … think how dark or how happy I’m going to be today.”

Moments before the show begins, “we have a little routine, give everybody hugs, keep morale intense,” Tyus added.

Brass and the wardrobe staff stay on their toes, too.

“KOOZA” includes 1,200 costumes worn by 50-some performers, 300 pairs of shoes, 160 hats, nine wigs and numerous accessories such as feathers.

Three full-time wardrobe people travel with the show. There are also two daytime prep people and two more at night.

Everything is steamed or laundered daily. There’s six to eight hours of ironing per day, said Brass.

All of the costumes are custom-made in Montreal with exclusive fabrics that are dyed or silkscreened at the Cirque’s studios.

“Each one is fitted to hundreds of different movements,” said Brass, which makes sense, given the Cirque’s nimble cast of dancers, acrobats and clowns.

Brass has been with Cirque du Soleil 10 years, “traveling and touring and seeing the world.”

“KOOZA” publicist Emilie Nadeau said Redmond is one of the Cirque’s favorite tour stops because there’s plenty of room at Marymoor Park and local audiences are very appreciative. The Cirque was previously here in the summers of 2006 and 2008.

The City of Redmond enjoys the warm relationship, as well.

According to Mayor John Marchione, “The Cirque du Soliel events are great for the Eastside region. Cirque provides quality entertainment without having to cross a bridge. The performers and staff generate room nights at our hotels and the patrons spend money at area businesses and restaurants. I know the hoteliers of Redmond would love for the Cirque to come here every year.”

We were fortunate to attend Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal of “KOOZA,” which was utterly spectacular. Simply put, the audience went wild.

For more information about “KOOZA,” visit http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/kooza/default/aspx.

To check out more photos of the Reporter’s behind-the-curtain visit, go to Reporter photographer Chad Coleman’s blog.

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