VOLTA runs through July 6, with tickets starting at $49, available for purchase at cirquedusoleil.com/volta or by calling 1-877-9CIRQUE (1-877-924-7783).
This engagement was Cirque’s first presentation at Soldier Field – and the second show with Ron Kellum as its artistic director.
“This has truly been one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences of my career,” said Kellum, who is openly gay and a Los Angeles resident. “I oversee 60 hardworking, specialized and unique individuals. These people are what make this show, and coming to work, so special. Every day, the artist, crew, and teams in all departments show up and give their very best to inspire both me and audiences around the world.”
The first-ever Cirque du Soleil touring show to visit the U.S., CIRQUE RÉINVENTÉ, stopped in Chicago in 1989. VOLTA is the 25th production presented in the area since the Canadian company first visited.
Chicago is the 10th city in the U.S. to be visited by VOLTA, and VOLTA employs 200 Chicago employees for its stay.”VOLTA is an exhilarating show,” Kellum said. “It tells a touching story about finding and accepting yourself, which is a message that everyone, especially members of the LGBTQ community, can relate to.
“It’s also the first show by Cirque du Soleil centered around street sports, so it definitely takes Cirque to another level and shows things you’ve never seen before. We bring on stage new disciplines, such as BMX, Double Dutch or Roller Skate, while keeping traditional circus arts, such as hair suspension.”
VOLTA is presented to electronic music, in an urban context that would highlight it best, featuring DJ Anthony Gonzalez.
VOLTA costumes were designed by Zaldy Goco, who has won two Emmy Awards for RuPaul’s Drag Race.
“VOLTA is nothing traditional, a show with an urban and fashionable feel,” Kellum said. “My role (with VOLTA) is to spearhead the evolution of the show and to maintain the highest artistic quality of what we present. I work every day with a cast of 50 artists and roughly 30 artistic and technical crew members. We constantly improve what we do to make sure we present to the audience a show that is relevant and that exceeds their expectations.
“We love this (Soldier Field) site; it’s an excellent location. It’s beautiful, near everything and easily accessible. We’re lucky to have the Navy Pier fireworks’ show twice a week right in front of us right when we finish our show.”
VOLTA presented a special Pride Night show on June 18, with proceeds donated to Equality Illinois.
“It’s very important for Cirque du Soleil to get involved in the communities and to support the local organizations of the cities that we visit,” Kellum said.
“People who are long-time fans of Cirque du Soleil will find what they are expecting (with VOLTA), with traditional numbers such as shape diving and aerial straps. They also will find new disciplines, such as dance, roller skate, flatland BMX, and more.”
And yes, VOLTA includes the hair suspension number, when an artist levitates 25-feet in the air, suspended only by her hair. “She is incredibly stunning and talented,” Kellum said.
“After 35 years of creating circus shows, we wanted to explore new territories – and street sports (bring) an elementwhich we had never (explored). Those sports usually come with an attitude: a freedom to do what you want, the way you want. That’s why we decided to tell a story about freedom and self-acceptance.
“The result is immaculate.”
Kellum also was the artistic director on Cirque du Soleil’s KOOZA show.
In addition to his work with Cirque du Soleil, Kellum is a senior producer for e2k, co-director for the NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii and co-producer for the NFL Pro Bowl United Way Thanksgiving Half-Time Show.
As a performer, Kellum appeared in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Chicago and toured nationally in Aida, Dreamgirls, Fosse and Chica.
And he was the artistic director for Jesus Christ Superstar, which was a major success a few years ago in Chicago.
“Jesus Christ Superstar changed my life,” he said. “”The magnitude of doing an all-black production of (that) scale, being surrounding by some of Chicago’s most talented actors, singers and dancers was simply amazing. Their talent and spiritual contributions helped it succeed beyond our expectations.”
When asked about Chicago, Kellum said he loves the city, but hates its weather.
“I’ve worked on the Aloha Bowl, the Detroit Lions’Thanksgiving Day Motown Tribute Halftime show and for the past 20 years the NFL Pro Bowl Halftime Show,” he said. “Working with the NFL and doing halftime shows are such an adrenaline rush and a completely different model of entertainment. There are no ‘do overs’ and (they) must be tackled with charisma and precision. There’s a specific type of pressure when putting hundreds of performers and major celebrities on a field in just minutes and knowing that everything must go perfectly and smoothly.”
Kellum said he is “humbled” to represent the LGBT community on the worldwide scene.
“It’s so important that we be seen, considered and heard,” he said. “I’m passionate about equal rights for all and the importance of inclusion, diversity and respect across the board.”
More Ron Kellum
This year at New York City’s famed Studio 54, he celebrated with his first Broadway cast, the 25thAnniversary of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “I have had an incredible performing career that includes Chicago and Fosse also on Broadway, to several national tours that include: Beauty and the Beast, Aida and Dreamgirls, to name just a few. I also had the unique opportunity of doing the one musical produced by Michael Jackson’s production company called Sisterella.”
“My favorite role to date was CC in Dreamgirls.”
He is the artistic director for YouTube sensation Post Modern Jukebox and will be directing four of their worldwide tours, along with their resident show in Las Vegas at the Mirage Hotel and Casino.
He marks his 20th year working on the NFL’s Pro Bowl Halftime Show in 2020.
He also works with private organizations, such as National Geographic, Cannondale, Conservation International and Apple.