There’ll be no midway, no sideshow barker and no car packed with clowns at this circus. No, make that cirque. Instead you’ll find acrobatics and feats of daring wrapped in the spectacular music and costumes of a stage play.
The shows, the brainchild of Neil Goldberg, Cirque Productions combine European cirque-style performance artistry with American circus arts and Broadway theatrics. The company’s 12th production – Cirque Dreams – Jungle Fantasy – puts the whole package on display Monday night at the Centre In The Square.
A young adventurer wanders into the jungle, and finds himself immersed in a world of fantastic creatures. He encounters soaring aerialists, spine bending contortionists and vine-swinging characters.
“I’ve always found the jungle fascinating. I think many people are drawn to it – exotic and mysterious,” Goldberg said in a telephone interview from Cirque Productions’ Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters.
In his vision of the jungle, contortionists become lizards, violinists turn into trees and percussionists start drumming on mushrooms and toadstools.
As with all Cirque shows, Jungle Fantasy uses circus-style performers – acrobats, contortionists, strongmen and the like – in a setting akin to a Broadway musical. Unlike the circus, where acts are presented as separate spectacles, all of the performances are woven into a story. As with Broadway productions, there are extravagant costumes, lighting, choreography and original music, all arranged in-house at Cirque Productions’ head office.
“It’s presented as a connected series of scenes like a traditional musical play,” Goldberg explained of Jungle Fantasy.
As a child, he didn’t have much of an affinity for the circus, but loved the theatre from the very first time his parents took him to a production at the age of six.
Later, travelling the world and checking out cirque-style performers in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, he saw a way to link his new appreciation of the art with his longtime love of the theatre. In 1993, he created Cirque Productions, the first American company to produce European, theatrical and cirque-style shows for corporate events, theatres and tours.
“I always knew I wanted to be involved with live theatre.”
Starting out with a handful of helpers, Goldberg has seen the business blossom – there now more than 140 full-time employees. He receives some 50 job applications each week from performers around the globe. Much of his time these days is spent travelling the world in search of talent.
The type of spectacle that has evolved will be familiar to those exposed to the Cirque du Soleil, which has brought the style to international prominence. There are plenty of differences, however, Goldberg stressed.
“They’ve certainly changed the public perception of the genre, but our shows are very different,” he said, pointing to the Broadway format (in fact, the troupe has appeared on Broadway for a successful run).
Over the years, Cirque Dreams has developed a show that aimed at captivating young people in the audience with eye-catching acts while weaving in elements of the theatre for lovers of live musicals and the like.
“The demographics are five to 105. Everyone always says it, but there really is something for everyone – it’s really a smorgasbord for the audience.”
Cirque Dreams – Jungle Fantasy appears on stage at the Centre In The Square Jan. 12 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $55-65, available at the box office by calling 578-1570 or toll free 1-800-265-8977 or online at www.centre-square.com.