Run Away and Join the Circus...
How did RJ come to work for Cirque du Soleil?
Here’s his story…
It was 2008 and I was performing magic at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I was doing my magic act on the Royal Mile during the day and 3 venue shows at night. It was the most exhilarating, exhausting and rewarding performance time of my life.
One dreary and drizzly day after one of my street shows a little man approached me and said ‘I really like your look’. Well I thought ‘Shit, he’s hitting on me!' he then extended his hand and palmed a business card into mine. I didn’t even look at it…I just threw it in my bag and went on with the day. That night, at one of my venue shows…he was there, in the audience. Stalker! Luckily, I didn’t see him for the rest of the festival.
Fast forward to 2010 and I receive a phone call…’Hallo, RG (French Canadians can’t say RJ)…this is Marc-Andrè Roy from Cirque du Soleil.’ Me: OK. He continues…’I met you in Edinburgh at zee Fringe…I said I liked your look.’ Me: Holy @$*!% (I went straight for my pack that had his business card in it…yeah, I know it was 2 years later but being a Virgo has its advantages) .
Sure enough, my stalker was from Cirque. He goes on…’we are coming to San Francisco and are very interested in meeting with you and having you audition for us.’ My first reaction was ‘as what?’…but I agreed to meet and audition.
The day of the audition I show up and there are 50 people there…49 of which are lithe acrobatic dancer types and then there was me. ‘What the @$%! am I doing here?’ I start looking around for hidden cameras and the like. Nothing.
So they put us through our paces. After an hour they cut our group down to 24. Another hour…down to 12. Another hour and its lunchtime. Marc-Andrè says…’If I read you number please join us after lunch…if not, thank you for auditioning.’ Numbers were read. Mine was not. So I grabbed my bag and started to head out…on the way I stopped and thanked Marc-Andrè for having me. He asked ‘where are you going?’ ‘You are the reason we’re here.’ I was flummoxed.
They put the 4 of us through our paces for another 4 hours. At the end he told me I was an “Artists of Caliber” and “it may be 3 months or 3 years…but you will be working for Cirque one day.”
Low and behold, a year and a day later (on my 42nd birthday no less) Cirque called and asked if I would have any interest in playing the Ringmaster in Saltimbanco. Interest?!?!? Let me check…Um yeah!
This was RJ’s first show with Cirque du Soleil. What a show it was! Saltimbanco was the longest running show is Cirque history. It was known as “the bulldozer”…as it created the path that is now legendary. Saltimbanco brought Cirque du Soleil to countries that had never seen anything like it before.
RJ was cast as “The Ringmaster” in Saltimbanco. He was the 3rd person to be cast as such in the shows history…what an honor!
In the 12 months RJ toured with Saltimbanco he visited 19 countries and 32 cities.
As Saltimbanco was closing its 20 year run, RJ was informed on Christmas Eve 2012 that he was cast as Bèbe François in Mystère. What a Christmas Present! What an honor! Not only was Mystère the first permanent show in Las Vegas but RJ would be the 2nd person ever cast in this iconic role.
RJ can currently be seen performing as Bèbe François in Mystère by Cirque du Soleil at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.
“Big shoes to fill…”
Bèbe François was created by the masterful showman François DuPuis in 1993. He performed the role for almost 19 years…perfecting it along the way. Needless to say, this was the most difficult role RJ has ever taken on. Not the actual role itself, but the legacy that came with it. How does one pick up the torch of a beloved patriarch, keep it aflame with the spirit and life that was created by someone else and yet imbue it with their own choices? A daunting task, indeed.
“An ongoing process…”
To this day, RJ has never seen François perform “Bèbe François”. RJ was given carte blanche when creating his vision of Bèbe François.
Interestingly, RJ has made many of the same choices as his inimitable predecessor.
RJ now has over 4,000 shows under his...um...diaper as Bebe François. He's looking forward to at least 4,000 more!