My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Thomas Evans playing it big in Cirque du Soleil's Toruk - The First Flight

by Drew Rowsome -

No-one does circus and spectacle on the level of Cirque du Soleil. And no company has hotter acrobats: Thomas Evans is living proof. Evans has been with Cirque for a decade, gracing the stages of La Nouba in Orlando and ZAiA in Macau. Just this summer he was in Toronto performing in the opening ceremonies for the Pan American Games. And now he returns as part of the cast of Toruk - The First Flight,

a live immersive multimedia spectacle that brings to the stage the breathtaking world of James Cameron’s Avatar like you have never seen it before.

A Cirque show has to run like clockwork, but it is an adrenaline-fuelled clockwork. Until the moment the phone rang with the Cirque publicist on the line, I was not sure who I would be talking to so I was unable to do my usual research (aka google-stalking) to frame leading questions. Despite prepping for a show that afternoon and another that evening, Evans is chatty, friendly and laughs easily. Post-interview googling had me kicking myself as I found, on a lurid blog by a circus performer aficionado, describing the effect Evans has:

I managed to find the name and email address of the kick-ass sexy juggler/rope-jumper from the party who, thanks to my stupidity, I didn’t talk to. I took 70 minutes to write an email, deciding on the tone, content, form . . . but I finally sent it.

There were definitely more leading questions I should have asked. And then this:

"Toruk is very different from anything I've done before. I've done a lot of big shows but this one is a completely new experience in terms of size of the show, size of the projection and the content," says Evans. Was he an Avatar fan? "Of course, visually it's one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen. When this project came up, I didn't even know it was in the works, it was definitely something I was interested in. Also I'm quite tall so I thought I fit the bill pretty well."

Evans did gymnastics from the age of six and was a competitive diver at nine. He joined a circus school in Seattle when he was 16. "Eventually I moved to Quebec City to further my education and training. After a few years I started working for Cirque." Now he travels the world and, in Toruk's case, the galaxy with a side trip to Pandora.

"In the show I do Chinese poles which are basically articulated poles, giant long poles that are connected on top and they bend in the middle. You can climb them, rotate on them, spin on them. As well there's a balancing act. I do some hand-balancing and acrobatics throughout the show, character work, acting and things like that. It's a busy show."

An arena show has its own challenges. And rewards. "It's such an enormous space that as an artist, as an actor, you have to really project to the last row and the last row is a lot farther away than it is in a big top. And there's a lot of space to cover, you have to run from one side of the stage to the other which is two, two-and-a-half times larger than a big top stage. It's a lot more physical, a lot more running. And this show also demands a lot in terms of acting, what you're feeling, emotions. It's definitely a new challenge for me."

Evans is enjoying life on the road. "This is my first touring show and I'm enjoying it. You live out of two suitcases, it's a very simple life. We're in a different city each week and it moves quite fast. I'm lucky to be in a cast of great, interesting people, a group that's really fun, so that helps. Right now for my life, it's wonderful."

Even the extensive make-up required to turn Evans from hunky acrobat to alluring alien doesn't faze him. "It's pretty standard in terms of Cirque. I take 45 minutes to an hour to apply the make-up. In terms of taking it off, it's just a lot of oil and scrubbing your face. My skin? It adapts."

Also having to adapt will be one broken heart in Montreal and an arena full of potentials in Toronto, as Toruk, and Evans, move audiences to magic and then, in true circus-style, move on.

Toruk runs Thurs, Jan 7 to Sun, Jan 10 at the Air Canada Centre, 40 Bay St.