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Tuesday night [12/28/04], the international cast and crew of the current National Tour of Neil Goldberg’s Cirque Dreams had magic to do and, oh boy, did they ever do it! For Broadway Series South patrons, Cirque Dreams is a belated Christmas present, beautifully wrapped and thoroughly entertaining.
Cirque Dreams is a jaw-dropping program of high-flying acrobats, aerialists, clowns, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, puppeteers, singers, and strong men from Canada, Mongolia, Russia, and the Ukraine, as well as the good old U S of A. All of them perform at the top of their craft on a soaring Surrealistic set that looks like a Fever Dream concocted by a contemporary Salvador Dali.
Brilliantly conceived, directed, and choreographed by Long Island native Neil Goldberg, with help from artistic assistant to the director Heather Hoffman, composer Keith Heffner, and production manager Jessica Schrag, this superlative program of European-style (human, not animal) circus acts will undoubtedly evoke comparisons to Cirque du Soleil but, for my money, Cirque Dreams is a superior product in many ways. It is more intimate, more amazing and, ultimately, more satisfying — thanks to the theatrical genius and fantastic imagination of Neil Goldberg and cohorts and the colorful contributions of props and scenic artists Jeff Gale and Dan Dadonna and wardrobe assemblers Santiago Rojo and Marcello Boza. The show also features a superb sound design by Frank Snipes and a dazzling lighting package by Strong Communications.
The ingenious overall concept of a seedy circus clown (charismatic Russian Iouri Klepatsky) falling asleep and tossing and turning his way through a wild and crazy series of dreams involving circus acts is highly original; but the execution of Goldberg’s concept is simply splendid, with stunning sets and costumes, ingenious props, glorious lighting and ultra-violet special effects, and an invigorating soundtrack, with nonsense lyrics sung in an imaginary language. Klepatsky also roams the audience while the company shanghais five audience members to perform the hilarious “Symphony of Bells.”
When Cirque du Soleil performed Dralion March 13-April 5, 2003, at Triangle Town Center in north Raleigh, too much happened at the same time and the vast big top dwarfed the extraordinary athletic feats of the show’s performers, many of whom wore safety wires as they piled their human pyramids higher and higher. By contrast, the outstanding athletes and artisans of Cirque Dreams perform their amazing feats of daring on a proscenium stage in the comparably intimate confines of Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, without nets and with nary a safety wire in view. Indeed, only one act had a large thick cushion to break its fall; and it wasn’t needed.
Just some of the many, many highlights of Cirque Dreams include:
* Luly, a Florida singer-songwriter in a glorious gold headdress and gown (Carmen Miranda eat your heart out!) who warbles like a nightingale and serves as the show’s musical muse;
* Mongolian sisters Byambajav and Byambasuren Janchivdorj, who twist themselves into human pretzels while wearing full-body black leotards with colorful vertical stripes that accent the difficulty of the contortions;
* Ukrainian acrobat Yevgen Vilkovskyy, whose chair-stacking act is a real crowd-pleaser as he precariously balances 15-20 feet above the stage atop eight chairs;
* Russian Sergey Parshin, whose aerial act gives rope tricks a whole new meaning;
* American Joseph Ross, whose dizzying German wheel act evokes ohs and ahs;
* High-flying Canadians Elise Barbeau and Veronique Rivet, who share and swap positions on a single trapeze and keep the audience’s heart in its throat throughout their routine;
* Russian Victor Dodonov, who stole the show while he teetered 15 feet above the stage on top of a stack of mismatched plastic blocks and metal cylinders; and
* Three Russian strong men — Sergey Parshin, Sergei Slavski, and Alexander Tolstikov — who contort their bodies into impossible positions and stack themselves in a variety of ways in a show-stopping segment of the show.
Broadway Series South presents Cirque Dreams Thursday-Friday, Dec. 30-31, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 1, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 2, 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1, E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $21-$58. BTI Box Office: 919/831-6060. Group Rates (for groups of 20 or more): 919/857-4565 or http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2004-2005/group.html [inactive 5/05]. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2004-2005/specials.html#cirque [inactive 5/05]. Neil Goldberg’s Cirque, Inc.: http://www.cirqueproductions.com/ourstory.htm [inactive 9/05].
Cirque Productions’ 2003-04 National Tour of Cirque Dreams, presented Dec. 28-Jan. 2 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium by Broadway Series South, is an absolutely astonishing theatrical extravaganza, with beautiful music, dynamic dance routines, breathtaking sets, gorgeous costumes, and spectacular lighting and special effects. Cirque Productions impresario and director Neil Goldberg’s clever circus fantasy, which made its debut in 2003 in Texas as part of Dallas Summer Musicals, dramatizes the dreams of a clown in a colorful, high-flying spectacle will delight Triangle theatergoers.
According to the Cirque Productions web site: “Originally a native New Yorker with a theatre degree in scenic design, Neil Goldberg relocated to South Florida to continue pursuing his theatrical dream after his endeavors on Broadway. From 1982 to 1992 he owned and operated Parties by Neil and Entertainment Etcetera, one of the country’s leading theatrical, special events, and entertainment production companies…. In 1993, Neil Goldberg’s creative imagination gave birth to Cirque Productions, the only American company of its kind producing European cirque-style shows for corporate events and theatre worldwide. Influenced by international cabaret, Vaudevillian variety, and many other forms of live entertainment, Cirque Productions’ signature style today personifies Goldberg’s globally inspired imagination along with his own professional Broadway theatre expertise.’”
In reviewing the National Tour of Neil Goldberg’s Cirque — Dream It Live, a similar show that the Carolina Union Performing Arts Series brought to the Dean E. Smith Center on April 10 and 11, 2003, Robert’s Reviews critic Scott Ross wrote: “If spectators stayed away because they feared a cheap knock-off of the far more famous Cirque du Soleil, all I can say is ‘too bad.’ They missed a hell of a show. Despite a few unnecessary diversions, Goldberg’s extravaganza was an enormously entertaining evocation of the classic European circus ideal. This American entrepreneur, a modern-day Ziegfeld of the athletic, has gathered an astonishing collection of acrobats, jugglers, trapeze artists, clowns, and other wonders from Russia, Eastern Europe, North America, and the Far East and given them ample space to perform their miracles.”
According to the Cirque Dreams Press Kit, “In the spirit of the enormously successful Cirque Ingenieux comes the latest creation from Cirque Productions, Cirque Dreams, conceived and directed by Neil Goldberg. This exhilarating 90-minute, two-act performance is a journey through the imaginative dream sequences of a clown, containing a variety of original scenes with comical, magical, and fantastical moments from beginning to end. Goldberg’s signature style of inventive acrobatics, costuming, choreography, and music are enhanced with some of the most striking visual and ultra violet effects ever presented on stage. An aerial ballet over the audience, an interactive music symphony, and four-legged stilt creatures appearing around the theater are just some of the performance highlights to expect. Cirque Dreams is sure to be a show to WOW the whole family!”
Also according to the show’s Press Kit, some of the highlights of Cirque Dreams include:
* “A trio of Canadian Trapeze Artists [who perform] with incredible energy displaying skills of balance and great risk as they spin, jump, and twist on and over each other, all while hanging upside down 20 feet in the air.”
* “A Russian acrobat who performs an upbeat and breathtaking display of skill by balancing on a platform that is placed on five rolling cylinders stacked on top of each other — each rolling in a different direction — all cleverly choreographed to a finger-snapping, toe-tapping piece of music.”
* “Three Mongolian contortionists who literally tie themselves in knots and are accompanied by floating masks and faces, adding mystery and intrigue to a finely choreographed production.”
* “A Russian aerialist who flies on a skin of chiffon in a dramatic presentation.”
* “A trio of muscular men from Russia who balance on each other’s heads, hands, and sculpted bodies, defying gravity in what is sure to be a showstopper!”
The Dallas Morning News characterized a similar Neil Goldberg creation as a “spine-bending, mind-tingling spectacle,” the Miami Herald called these Cirque Productions shows a “combination of fantasy Circus and Broadway dream,” and the New York Daily News praised these productions for their “acrobatic audacity and limitless imagination all in one.”
Broadway Series South presents Cirque Dreams Tuesday-Friday, Dec. 28-31, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 1, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 2, 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1, E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $21-$58. BTI Box Office: 919/831-6060. Group Rates (for groups of 20 or more): 919/857-4565 or http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2004-2005/group.html [inactive 5/05]. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2004-2005/specials.html#cirque [inactive 5/05]. Neil Goldberg’s Cirque, Inc.: http://www.cirqueproductions.com/ourstory.htm [inactive 9/05].