There's a lot that a person has to swallow to enjoy a Cirque du Soleil show. But we invariably gulp it all down the moment the first svelte acrobat floats down from the flyspace. Because there's no getting around it: the stuff these people do is absolutely and unquestionably amazing to behold.
With the pole-balancers, jugglers, trampolinists and so forth setting the bar so high, there needs to be an equally superlative package to bring it all together. And that's where Dralion, like many of Cirque du Soleil's arena shows, falls short.
The Canadian cirque nouveau mega-giant does its best work when it's under its own grand chapiteau (that's French for big top, kids), rolling into town with all the trappings and fanfare of a proper circus. But this revival of a 1999 production, repurposed and cut down for arena touring, feels a little half-baked.
Dralion is a portmanteau of "dragon" and "lion," meant to represent a melding of Eastern and Western influences (we think it kind of sounds like a Pokémon or something). A few of these chimerical beasts even show up at the end of the first half, each manned by two performers. They do crazy dances, balance on giant balls and generally look like a fever dream of a Chinese New Year parade.
The wow factor of Dralion's acrobatics is reliably high. Six performers fly between a trampoline and the wall, an entire human pyramid jumps rope and aerialist Marie-Ève Bisson twirls endlessly on a suspended hoop.
But Dralion is missing the big stuff. There's a jarring lack of flying trapezes and wheels of death—those massive, thrilling types of set pieces Cirque fans have come to expect. The set design is also less than breathtaking; it looks like it was pulled together from other Cirque shows' spare parts.
What we do get is lots of filler clown routines, featuring a foursome of what we can only describe as wacky Italian butlers. These gag-a-second schticks are fine in small doses, but there's a point in Dralion when they stop feeling like interludes and start feeling like most of the show.
For all its nifty performances, Dralion lacks the power to overwhelm. It doesn't help that the stage at Agganis is set at a distance from the audience; there's less of sense of being caught up in the action than you'd experience at a big top production. People come to Cirque du Soleil shows to be blown away, but Dralion only musters a steady wind.