As the saying goes, "there's nothing new under the sun." Luckily, artists like to snub their noses at this by creatively repackaging the old to make it into something new and exciting.
Unfortunately, the latest revision of the age-old circus and acrobatic acts in Neil Goldberg's Cirque Dreams: Holidaze, presented in the Lexus Broadway Series at the AT&T Performng Arts Center, is underwhelming as a whole. Gaudy color schemes, a crowded set, irrelevant background visuals, shabby choreography and awkward transitions turn the individual stellar acts into a chintzy holiday spectacle.
As the curtain opens, the audience is blasted by every pigment of the rainbow. Inflatable candy canes and nutcrackers frame a normally spacious stage, which is now covered with an enormous silver Christmas tree-like structure and various other large themed set pieces. An international cast greets the patrons in heavily embellished costumes, which on their own could be quite lovely but here only add to the cacophony of color.
The music (by Jill Winters and David Scott, with additional compositions by Lance Conque and Tony Aliperti) serves as a nice background to the main performers, but much of the lyrics of the other songs get lost in the amplification and odd melodies.
The acrobatic acts themselves are quite remarkable. Aerial hoop and silk dancers soar through the air. Young gymnasts flip and balance on their partners, displaying amazing control and flexibility. A quartet of reindeer takes us back to our childhood years with an ingenious jump rope routine. Various juggling, balancing, and hoop maneuvering segments keep the audience members on the edge of their seats, and a pair of fashionistas magically transform their costumes in the blink of an eye.
With such talent, it's a shame the rest of it doesn't live up to the hype. The in-between moments and the background mess bring the show down. Transitions between the acts tend to be abrupt, with random characters popping up here and there, attempting to dance.
Also during each act, the designers add extra movement and vignettes, instead of allowing the audience to focus solely on the stunts. Some of these turn out to be more entertaining than the acrobat, such as wiggling candy canes moving across the stage during the hula-hoop sequence. Others are as equally entertaining as the main event, which makes it hard to focus on one thing, such as the hilarious tango happening simultaneously as the hand-balancing routine. Most often, though, they're just annoyingly distracting.
Luckily, during the final aerial dance, all extraneous movement ceases, lights dim, and we're allowed to take in the beauty of moment. While it's understandable that they save the best for last, the act seems so out of place compared to the rest of the colorful, upbeat show. The music shifts from cheerful, bouncy noises to the reverence of "O Holy Night" for a romantic aerial duet performed by Andrey Lyamin of Russia and Olena Piontkevych of Ukraine.
Musically, it's an odd juxtaposition, but what's even more peculiar is the sensuality displayed between the two performers over lyrics that depict a religiously sacred event. The two, however, exhibit a grace and elegance not seen elsewhere in the evening's performance as they seamlessly weave in and out of each other and the silks. Midway through, more white fabric extends across the upstage creating a stunning white backdrop for the most dazzling visual, a maneuver on the cloth which makes the pair look like a sailboat soaring through the sky.
Two other highlights of the show come in the form of Armando Gutierrez as the comical, exuberant elf and Billy Jackson, who doubly shines as a jump-roping reindeer and the Maestro. As the latter, he hilariously conducts an audience-participation segment involving clanging bells. The two USA natives also illustrate another important concept. A good performance can at least somewhat redeem a bad show.
The evening's performance seemed to generate mixed reactions among the audience. All appeared to be amazed by the impossible stunts, but a quick glance revealed many bored expressions during some of the singing moments. The women behind me gushed nonstop during intermission, while the young man in the row ahead was falling asleep.
Overall, if one can look past the gaudy packaging, the actual present inside is definitely entertaining.