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There was a funeral of a clown at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Thursday. A funeral with angels and harlequins, a little clowness, musicians and acrobats.

And what acrobats they are -- climbing on giant chandeliers, simultaneously spinning a handful of hula hoops, blasting into the air off a teeterboard, juggling with pins and rings and dancing in space on aerial straps.

That funeral comes from Cirque du Soleil. It’s called “Corteo” and it’s a masterpiece of theatrical acrobatics.

The theatre starts with the set, which runs the length of the arena and feels like a proscenium stage from both sides of the audience. Then add costumes, from a classic white clown to the jugglers as harlequins and just enough dialogue and story.

Then add in the world-class athletes — nearly all are national or world championship level gymnasts -- performing routines like the high bar finale that had six men simultaneously working on and flipping to many bars.

At the center of it all, trying to keep order, is Mr. Loyal, clad like a circus ringmaster. Played by Sean Lomax, Mr. Loyal gets his turn in the spotlight early in the show’s second act when he demonstrates his whistling ability, matching a violin in a cutting contest.

“The traditional circus had a ringmaster who wore a whistle around his neck,” Lomax said. “The creators wanted to do something different. I happened to be a three-time whistling champion. I got the role.”

Lomax has played Mr. Royalty since “Corteo” began in 2005. That, based on the number on Thursday’s running order, would be 3,733 shows first under the big top and for the last few years in arenas.

So Lomax has an idea of why “Corteo” has been one of the most popular Cirque offerings, playing more than 8 million people around the world.

“It has the ability to touch people,” Lomax said Thursday afternoon. “We all experience the thing we call moving on, going to the other side. It’s the imagination -- that we are between earth and heaven. This is the point where you look back at your life. It doesn’t have to be mournful.”

In fact, “Corteo” isn’t mournful at all. Rather it’s captivating theatrical aerobatics that loosely tells a story and impressively entertains.

That starts with the stunning acrobatics, then extends through some comic set pieces and a real charmer. The routine is called “Helium Dance” and it finds Mauro the Dreamer (it’s his funeral) on stage with his little Clowness (Valentina Paylevanyan) suspended from three giant helium balloons.

There’s no reason to spoil anything about “Corteo” by disclosing too many specifics except to say there are five more performances set for Friday through Sunday and it’s well worth seeing.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or kwolgamott@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSWolgamott.

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Entertainment reporter/columnist

L. Kent Wolgamott is an entertainment reporter and columnist.

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