Arts and Entertainment

Circus spectacle meets Broadway theatrics in Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

As a kid living outside Manhattan, Neil Goldberg looked forward all year to a beloved holiday tradition: his entire family going to Radio City Musical Hall for the annual “Christmas Spectacular” show.

As an adult he became a Broadway director and theater producer. In 1993 he founded Cirque Productions, a company that designed productions for major theme parks, two Super Bowls, Armed Forces Entertainment, a trio of TV networks and a couple of cruise lines. (As of 2018, the company has been a division of Cirque du Soleil.)

Christmas was always on his mind, however, and 12 years ago Goldberg came up with “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” – a nod to the glamorous holiday variety shows of his childhood.

“I set out to create a show that Mom and Dad and the grandparents could take the kids to every year,” Goldberg says.

There’s plenty of spectacle, all right: original and traditional music, acrobatics, singing, dancing, circus acts and a nonstop onslaught of seasonal and holiday imagery, including gingerbread men, toy soldiers, Christmas trees and ornaments, candy canes, snowmen, penguins and reindeer.

Nothing in “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is static. Those gingerbread men fly out of an oven, doing flips. Toy soldiers don’t pose in formation, but rather march across high wires. Reindeer do jump-rope routines. Even the candy canes dance.

Cirque Dreams

“It’s the blending of contemporary circus with Broadway theatrics,” Goldberg says.

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze” doesn’t have a storyline per se. It’s merely “a celebration of the holiday season,” says its creator. His intention was to build a sense of wonder.

According to the critics, he succeeded. The New York Daily News calls the show “a delicious confection of charm, sparkle and talent by the sleighload.”

Chicago Tribune theater reviewer Chris Jones likened the show to “a way-over-the-top combination of one of those old Osmond Family Christmas specials, a Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated Christmas show, and the kind of Eastern European circus you might find in the center of Kiev.”

In a good way: Jones calls the show “really weird, wildly trippy, distinctly different, cheerfully excessive and very enjoyable family entertainment.” It’s also a production in which audiences “truly have no idea what is coming next.”

Will it be a guy standing atop a Christmas tree and balancing a chandelier on his nose? A human pyramid? An aerial silk act while a vocalist performs “O Holy Night”? A performer whose short purple dress turns into a white evening gown after a shower of magic glitter?

Goldberg says one of his biggest challenges is our screen-heavy culture. Parents and kids increasingly spend all their free time on separate phones or tablets, enjoying separate entertainments.

“To create a show that captures an audience’s attention for two and a half hours is tough,” Goldberg says.

It seems to be working, though: To keep up with ticket demand, half a dozen “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” troupes travel the country in November and December. Little kids love the gingerbread men, jaded adolescents are mesmerized by the aerial acts, and parents have the chance to see the holiday through the eyes of their kids — or, maybe, to remember their own childhood holidays.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

4 and 8 p.m. Dec. 27, 11 a.m. and 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 28, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 29

At the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts

Tickets $48.50 to $113.50, available at the box office and at CenterTix. (907-263-2787)

Donna Freedman

Freelance writer Donna Freedman is a veteran Alaska journalist who has written for the Anchorage Daily News and many other publications. She blogs about money and midlife at DonnaFreedman.com.

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