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Cirque at SEA


Carousel Lounge
Creating at Sea
Creative Team

Story & Theme
Scenes / Acts

Story & Theme
Scenes / Acts


Experience Cirque du Soleil... on a cruise!

On November 9, 2015, MSC Cruises announced a long-term partnership with Cirque du Soleil to create a total of eight brand new shows exclusively for MSC guests aboard the cruise line's next-generation Meraviglia-class ships that would set "new standards in live entertainment at sea" in multi-million dollar, ground-breaking entertainment and dining venues. Back in 2013 Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman of MSC Cruises, is said to have had a vision to take the entertainment offered on board his ships to the next level. Since MSC Cruises seeks to work with innovative, world-class leaders, it was only natural to approach Cirque du Soleil. The 4,500-passenger MSC Meraviglia, the initial ship in the class, is the first cruise ship ever to feature a multi-million dollar, ground-breaking entertainment and dining venue able to meet the unique needs of Cirque du Soleil also whilst at sea. And so far it's been a great success. Two more shows will launch with the MSC Bellissima in March 2019, with two more to follow with the MSC Grandiosa (in November 2019), and two more for the MSC Virtuosa (some time in 2020).  
MSC Meraviglia: • Viaggio (Jun.04.2017)
• Sonor (Jun.18.2017)
MSC Bellissima: • Syma (Mar.2019)
• Varélia (Mar.2019)
MSC Grandiosa: • Show #5 (Nov.2019)
• Show #6 (Nov.2019)
MSC Virtuosa: • Show #7 (Mar.2020)
• Show #8 (Mar.2020)

{ Return to Top }

MSC Meraviglia is packed with extraordinary features that offer the perfect experience at sea in every season. On board you can enjoy outstanding, authentic dining options and out-of-this-world entertainment with new panoramic areas, an innovative ocean-view aft lounge, and a spectacular amusement area connected to an outdoor water park. Other features include: a 315 ft. central promenade filled with boutiques, restaurants and tranquil spots for shopping, eating and relaxing... as well as socialising. (The entire ceiling of which is covered by a giant 5,200 sq.ft. LED screen transmitting visual magic around the clock: an atmospheric digital sky that animates the whole area from above with inspiring vistas, events, sunrises, sunsets, and starry night skies.) There's also spas, pools, bars, lounges, a sportsplex, and more! But we're interested in the Carousel Lounge.

Carousel Lounge

Cirque du Soleil was tasked to create two shows, each with a different concept, ambiance, storyline, costumes and make-up. The two very different, contrasting shows – VIAGGIO and SONOR – each lasting 40 minutes, are performed twice a night for six nights in the ship's £20m Carousel Lounge high-tech theatre. The lounge was designed by MSC Cruises together with the Architect Marco De Jorio to meet very specific needs. Equipped with the most cutting-edge technology and special rigging, the 10,760 sq ft, 450-seat space is very intimate - one of the smallest venues for Cirque du Soleil - but one that enables the performers to deliver sublime performances, making the interaction between the guest and performers even more magical.

The name carousel was chosen to convey the combined spirit of MSC Cruises offering unforgettable experiences and of Cirque du Soleil's unique performances, conjuring up festive and magical emotions. A carousel is associated with childhood memories of festive outdoor fairs. And there is something inherently captivating about a carousel - the music, colours, lights, and movement all combine in a unique, breath-taking experience. But it's not just about the visual experience for MSC Cruises: "We wanted to elevate the experience even further for our guests and for this we have worked hand in hand with the creative team from Cirque du Soleil to create the first Dinner & Show experience on our fleet," said Gianni Onorato, Chief Executive Officer of MSC Cruises.

The dinner experience is a gastronomic delight, where every detail from the table settings, the costumes, the music and visual effects through to the menus have been specially designed to complement each pre-show experience. The dining experience starts one hour before the show performance begins and is a treat for the senses with surprise animation from performers, live music, stylish table settings topped off with a table d'hôte three-course menu of eclectic creative dishes. The dining experience to complement SONOR guests is invited into a parallel world where culinary creations will not only trick the eye but the senses, whilst VIAGGIO immerses guests in a universe of colour, testing the imagination of guests from beginning to end. Other guests can enjoy a Cocktail & Show experience that begins 30 minutes before the performance starts and includes a specially designed signature cocktail and tempting treats.

Creating at Sea

Creating a cruise show brings up some unconventional theatrical considerations. "You have to keep that high level that Cirque offers of acrobatic performance, but you're not on flat unmovable land," said Susan Gaudreau, the show's director. "It upped the level for us a little bit." Plus, space on a cruise ship is limited. The intimate Carousel Lounge can accommodate 413 spectators, a fraction of the big-top settings that can seat up to 2,500. The setting called for added creativity. "The trapeze wouldn't work because the ceiling is a lower height than what a big top is," Gaudreau said. They had to find other ways to move performers through the air, such as using aerial tracks and creating a carousel that transports them.

That wasn't the only challenge. Gaudreau and Marie-Hélène Delage, creative director of Cirque du Soleil at Sea, knew that they were limited to one theater, one cast and one crew, but they needed to create two unique shows with their own costumes and concepts. "We wanted them to be as different as possible," Delage said. "Not only in aesthetics but also in the acrobatic performance." That meant they needed to find a range of abilities in anyone they hired, so that they could call on a particular circus talent in the first show - say, juggling - and then another in the next show - say, aerial work - to keep the productions distinct and audiences enthralled. "If you came to both shows you would not even recognize the same artists; you wouldn't even know it was the same team of designers that created the two shows," Gaudreau said.

She said that the shape and size of the venue helped her dream up each show. "Viaggio" is the tale of a painter following his muse and discovering a world of color and imagination, and Gaudreau was inspired to use the Carousel Lounge's expansive LED screen as a blank canvas to paint his masterpiece. The story of "Sonor" was inspired by the theater's immersive sound system, and the narrative about a hunter pursuing his prey is driven by rhythm and music. "The sound system was so amazing I was like, ‘Wow, I've got to do something with sound.' That was my main trigger," Gaudreau said.

While audiences shouldn't expect any heavy nautical themes at the shows, Gaudreau says they should look for a wink to the unique setting: "We call it ‘a little kudos to life at sea.'"

Creative Team
  • Creation Director — Marie-Hélène Delage
  • Show Director — Susan Gaudrea
  • Choreographer — James Greg
  • Acrobatic Performance — Nadia Richer
  • Equipment & Rigging — Pierre Masse
  • Lighting Designer — Alexandre Picotte
  • Multimedia Designer — Alexis Laurence
  • Composer & Music Director — Maxim Lepage
  • Sound Designer — Jean-Michel Caron
  • Costume Designer — Liz Vandal
  • Makeup Designer — Maryse Gosselin

{ Meet the Creators }


VIAGGIO is the story of a passionate and eccentric artist who hears the call of his Faceless Muse, a woman he has attempted to paint many times but always in vain. Mysterious and seductive, she beckons the Painter to boldly cross the threshold between reality and illusion into the vivid landscape of his unbridled imagination where he will finally complete his masterpiece. Animated by the music from his old radio, each stroke of the Painter’s brush reveals the details of his grandiose tableau. Electrifying colours fill the theatre with intriguing motifs and rich textures. A majestic aerial performance comes to life and the artists weave a vivid tapestry, transforming the theatre into a canvas. A lyrical duo of dancers mirrors the amorous interplay between the Painter and his Faceless Muse. Suspended high above the crowd, jugglers enter the scene and become part of this surrealist artwork, multi-coloured acrobats soar through hoops, and ladders reach for the heavens, celebrating the artist’s impossible quest. The space around the Painter becomes a living canvas for his imaginary world. Before our very eyes, a masterpiece comes to life.

Scenes / Acts

  • Painter’s Studio — Character/choreography
  • Wind Tunnel and colours — A-frame ladder flight with aerial silks
  • Transition Aerial to Juggling — Video
  • Transition Bike — Rigged double bike
  • Brotherly Brushes — Juggling
  • Cloud Transition — Video
  • Painter’s Reflection — Hand to Hand Acro Duet
  • Shadows transition — Video
  • The Painter’s Act — Acro Ladder
  • Introduction to Finale — Panels with choreography
  • The Masterpiece — Charivari
  • Salut — Bows


The tale of the Surrealist Painter, who, in pursuit of his haunting yet Faceless Muse, steps boldly into the surreal and magical landscape of his own unfinished painting, and discovers that both artistry and inspiration come in many varied and fantastical forms. The VIAGGIO characters are inspired by the surrealist world, which are represented by the Painter (Real) and the Muse (Surreal). The others characters are an interpretation/representation of a surreal object. The main inspiration being the surrealist imagery, the designers used the surrealist archetypes and actual clothing looks. Magritte was also a big inspiration, with its Derby hats and Classical men’s suits, butterflies and blue sky and clouds. Prints are used throughout, adding to the “surrealist” theme of the show, along with all sorts of bold colours: red, to represent the intensity of the Muse, pink, green, yellow, orange in addition to the colours in nature – sky blue, grass green and cloudy white.

  • THE PAINTER — An eccentric and passionate artist. The Painter is the heartof the story. In search of discovering his Faceless Muse, he journeys through the illusionary and vivid world of his surrealist imagination in order to complete his Masterpiece. As main character of the show, the painter lives in the real world. He is a real man saturated by the pigments and colours that he works with. This is reflected in his make-up, which is natural with splashes of colour.

  • THE MUSE — Alluring yet always elusive to the Painter, the Faceless Muse is graceful and poetic. Enticing the Painter to cross the threshold between reality and imagination, the Faceless Muse guides him through a voyage of magical discoveries. After she reveals herself to him, he can complete his Masterpiece. The Muse starts with a painting of a woman’s face hidden by a giant butterfly, wearing a red dress with mermaid legs, blending the butterfly with the beta fish wings. Supported by the show’s female characters, portrayed by creatures midway between the sky and the ocean. She is the current piece of art of the painter. She is a dream that can never fully be created in his mind. The Muse is his inspiration, his masterpiece, the image that keeps him striving to stay true to his work. A formation of childhood memories; his first love, his mother. She is part painting, part woman, part mermaid. Inside her dress is a memory of a sunset hidden that is reflecting all the way to her face. This sunset and the colours are reflected in her make-up design.

  • THE BROTHERLY BRUSHES — Two loud, expressive brothers, who speak an indecipherable language. They are theatrical, comical characters. They are human brushes with different colours; one is green the other orange. Their moustaches are painted on to fit with the surrealist theme. The tip of their eyebrows and moustaches are dipped in their respective colour just like a paint brush. Their moustaches have flicked the paint on their cheeks to create freckles. These characters evolve from a classical “British Gentlemen” look and feel (tweed suit, vintage style). They have two very distinct personalities from one another. They are argumentative with each other yet work together despite the fact that they can never agree on anything.

  • THE COLORS — Aerialists represent the paint colours with which the painter works. As they move dramatically through the air, their costumes create a visual movement of flying colour and texture. The make-ups for these characters is designed in accord with their respecting costume and character colour. For the Hand to hand/ Colours characters, their make-up is an hybrid between two different roles they play in the show. The main role they play is the reflection of The Painter and The Muse in a dream vision of The Painter. The Blue artist is an hybrid between The Muse and the Colour concept. The Orange artist has the orange blending a little more discretely than the other Colours men and the blue painted line only on his jaw line. The Green artist is also a Portal character so her make-up has been adapted a little for the two characters.

  • THE PORTALS — Cheer and stunts represent the motion of the paint movingacross the canvas. They are portals between the real and surreal worlds. These characters are inspired by their costumes and surrealist art. The key to the concept of the makeup design was to have different painting techniques to fit with the story of the show. Some designs feature washing effects, others stippling or flicking even dabbling. The point was to convey the feeling of a work of art in the make-up of every artist.


Viaggio is telling the story of a painter, linked to the surrealist period. This called for neo-classical style, music featured during the surrealist era. Poulenc, Ravel, Debussy, Satie are all French composers who were an inspiration for this. Also, French music like “valses-musettes” from performers like Patachou and Frehel were also inspirations. These are references, with strong melodies played by accordions and violins, that have, for sure, also inspired Yann Thiersen in Amelie Poulain, but Cirque's case they chose a more classical approach rather than pop.

The melodies in this project remain extremely important; the orchestration is always colorful and calls a lot to the imagination. To express "surrealism", Lepage used sometime, like these composers, a few soft dissonances or weird harmonic juxtapositions, which creates a feeling of strangeness, but most of the time, when used with major chords, just a feeling of magic. The task here was to stay on the joyful and colorful side of the spectrum, as requested by Susan for this show. The light use of touches of piano, harp, celesta and glockenspiel also brings touches of magic here and there.

Lepage also used syncopations like the ones found in modern dance or house music, but here used by classical instruments, for example, like the clarinets found in the The Brotherly Brushes. The envelope is completely classical but the content is basically dance music and, most satisfyingly, often brings the audience to handclap.



With sound at its heart, SONOR takes us on an auditory adventure with dancers, acrobats and characters, all moving to a rhythm. Its beat stimulates the senses and fuels our emotions. Main character Sonor, a playful, elusive virtual character, first appears in the form of a single sound. Continually altering in appearance, Sonor guides the audience through the show and instigates all that is seen and heard. His nemesis, the Sound Thief, explodes into life and takes on a strangely human form. The Sound Thief traps and steals sounds, accumulating them like treasures and uses them as playthings for his own amusement. In their struggle over sounds, Sonor and the Sound Thief lead each other through a series of unique and captivating acts, taking our senses along for the ride. Sound is the ultimate winner of this joyous battle and is transformed into a symphony of artistic and acoustic movements. SONOR conjures a world of unique sensations, astonishing sounds, bold music and immersive projections. It culminates in a grand finale for the senses.

Scenes / Acts

  • The Opening — Video
  • Sound Thief — Character work
  • Motion of Sound — Cyr Wheel
  • Transition: Sound Throwing — Character work
  • Visual of Sound — Straps and Vertical Dance
  • Transition: "Ne me quitte pas" — Character work
  • Human Symphony — Beatbox Number
  • Seeing through Movements — Dance Number
  • Artistry of Sound — Hoop act and walking globe
  • Vibration of Sound Finale — Acro Partner Stunts and Dance
  • Salut — Bows


The thread throughout the show is the playful interaction between a virtual character and the Sound Thief. The virtual character Sonor loves to tease the Sound Thief by playing games with him. The main goal was to create costumes that would replicate real-life clothing, creating a ‘tribal-futuristic-avant-garde’ collection. The chicness of greys is explored throughout - cold greys and warm greys, with shiny and mat fabrics, creating a multitude of combinations, creating a subtle but rich palette. The beauty of this choice of greys is that it reacts to the light in amazing ways, the costumes literally becoming the colour of the light - if the light is a cold colour, the cold greys react to it and vice-versa for the warm colours.

  • SONOR — Sonor is represented by a video image – a likeable, light, abstract, and morphing character that is always elusive to the Sound Thief. This image has a specific sound that is heard throughout the show. During the Human Symphony Act, Sonor is personified (becomes embodied) in the Beatboxer. Sonor is a playful, visual character that interacts with the audience through video projection, lighting paths and sound trajectories. Comparable to the circus ring master, he instigates what is heard and seen and he leads the audience into a musical journey. Continuously altering its appearance throughout the show, Sonor guides the audience through an auditory voyage full of rich and unimaginable acts. The Sonor character represents purity and the opposite pole to the Sound Thief. All dressed in white, with a glittering skin tone motifs creates the effect of a soft lace.

  • SOUND THIEF — Expressive and charismatic; the Sound Thief’s motivation is to take everything he can hear and store it within his body. In constant interaction with Sonor, whom he wishes to capture, The Sound Thief can either project or accumulate sound through the physical movements of his body. A physical dancer/mover, his character is dark in appearance and he is always surrounded by smoke. This character gets very close to the different sounds that provide him with energy but sound is a very powerful element so that when he gets too close to the sounds he can get burned. To represent this, the make-up has been designed to represent a burned mask around his eyes. This is covered by a high collar for some of the show.

  • THE TRIBE — The SONOR artists are seen as a support for the sense of Sound. Seen as a tribe, they all have their own particularities but together they are all linked, personifying sounds imagined and captured by the Sound Thief. The concept for this show is modern and contemporary. The lines for the make-up had to be clean, inspired by the fashion runway but not too futuristic. The artists represent a tribe living in a parallel universe but they are human. Their costumes are similar but with personalised touches on each and this inspired the approach for the make-up designs. So the makeup has similar themes but is personalised for each artist featuring decoration with different geometric styles. Theses shapes represent sound being captured by each artist. They can feel, breathe and communicate through the decoration close to their ears. Theses shapes placed close together create a sound energy.

  • THE CYR WHEEL — This artist is spreading the sound through the UV light reflecting from his costume. The white arched lines on his face are creating a perfect UV sphere as she is fabricating sound energy true to his act. The Cyr wheel costume is more on the classical side, in shades of grays, with a snake motif, a costume which illuminates when the UV lights are turned on, bringing abstraction to the human shape, becoming a luminous star twirling infinitely.

  • ARTISTRY OF SOUND (HOOPS) — his character is very light and very pure. She is simple and young. She possess the silver element of sound, which is very small and refined. To show how this sound is channelled, the make-up design features a small line from her lips through to her throat.


The concept for Sonor was that the sound would be at the heart of everything. Hence, sound here is very important. That somewhat abstract aspect naturally oriented the style toward a more modern direction. Electronic music gives so many possibilities with playing, transforming and even creating new sounds, that it became an obvious choice. However, the real concern that electronic would bring a cold ambiance brought the idea to add human sounds in every numbers. This "human" participation was meant to balance the warmth of the show and to bring an organic and friendlier side. Human panting, breath, shouts, singing and other body sounds like clapping and kiss sounds are all displayed in various ways during the show. The sound characterizing the entity of Sonor was thought to be Morse-code-like by the director, which can symbolize communication. At the same time, Lepage thought of using ’Sine’ wave for Sonor, the simplest and purest form of sound waves, which, funnily, happened to be used originally for Morse codes.


Cirque Corner