Have you ever seen a dancing snowman? How about living Christmas ornaments, balancing penguins or a team of reindeer who’ve traded their harnesses for jump ropes?
Cirque Dreams Holidaze celebrates the most wonderful time of the year with acrobatics, musical numbers, and holiday cheer that would make Santa belly-laugh. They’re spreading that cheer to the Saenger Theater on Dec. 5.
For 25 years, Cirque Dreams founder and director Neil Goldberg has taken the best of European-style circus, known as “cirque,” and combined it with his love of Broadway plays to create something unique and magical.
“The reason I don’t use the word ‘circus’ so much is because what Cirque Dreams set out to do is blend Broadway theatrics, musical theater, and circus all into this contemporary new genre. And with Holidaze … it’s a holiday stage spectacle all rolled into one,” Goldberg said.
Holidaze takes audiences on a journey through a winter wonderland of delight and fantasy, where costume changes happen in a flash and everything from Christmas ornaments to candy canes can come alive and join in the fun.
“I want to texture the scenes with a lot of color so they have a kaleidoscopic feel to it. There are over 300 costumes and people are always fascinated by the imagination that goes into it. … They see them and say, ‘What was this person thinking? How did they come up with that idea?’ And there’s a lot of those moments in this show.”
When Goldberg created Holidaze 10 years ago, holiday stage shows were a rarity. Conventional wisdom said a show you could put on only between Thanksgiving and New Years wasn’t worthwhile.
The success of Holidaze suggests something different.
“This holiday season, we have four companies touring simultaneously for Cirque Dreams Holidaze, and between them, we have about 135 acts from 25 different countries. … This show continues to evolve. It’s our 10th anniversary and it’s our busiest year yet.”
Creating and running such a huge production is difficult, but Goldberg says the reactions of the audience make it all worthwhile.
“It’s a lot of moving parts. I wouldn’t be forthright if I didn’t say that by the end, it’s exhausting. But when you see a full theater full of parents and their kids and grandparents all enjoying the same experience … being able to create impressions and smiles on people’s faces, I think that’s truly what this time of the year is about.”
The title "Cirque Dreams" refers to Goldberg’s lifelong dream of directing for the stage. Over the years, he worked as an event producer for companies all over the world before discovering "cirque" and founding his own company so he could make his dream a reality.
“Stage direction is my passion, and sometimes in life, you have to run an obstacle course and connect the dots to get to do what it is you truly want to do. So I am the founder of the company, 25 years ago, but my goal was always to be able to create and direct shows of this caliber.”
Cirque Dreams also makes dreams come true for its performers, who spend their lives perfecting their art and come from all over the world.
“We have a casting department that engages with performers and organizations from Havana to Ethiopia and everywhere in between, and we receive submissions from artists all over the world. … They can be actors, singers, dancers or musicians, but most of them are gymnastic athletes and performance artists that have developed a skill which they may or may not realize they do better than anybody else in the world.”
Goldberg said he hopes his artistic vision and the dazzling talent of Cirque Dreams’ performers can give audiences the same warm and fuzzy feelings he remembers from his own childhood.
“That’s always been in the background of my mind, trying to create a show that appeals to families, that old-fashioned tradition of families being able to spend time and enjoy something together could remain intact and I could potentially become a part of that.”
Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Where: Saenger Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5
Tickets: $35-99, saengernola.com