BWW Interview: Neil Goldberg of CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE Promises Fun For All at Fox Theatre
I recently had a chance to speak with Neil Goldberg, founder of Cirque Dreams, a huge entertainment brand that is bringing Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a holiday extravaganza, back to the Fox Theatre in Atlanta again this year, Nov. 24 and 25. Goldberg has been called "one of today's leading impresarios" by the L.A. Times, and I asked him about the upcoming show.
Neil Goldberg: This show has evolved over the last ten years. This is the eleventh year that we've had Cirque Dreams Holiday touring the country, and it's become so popular that we actually have five companies touring in the U.S. simultaneously this year. What we do is blend a little bit of musical theatre, a little bit of contemporary circus, and a lot of holiday spectacle, glitter, and music and that's what really composes the show.
Me: I've read that there are over twenty acts. How does that work?
Neil Goldberg: It's a two act show with a twenty minute intermission, each act running about 45 to 50 minutes, and collectively there are about 22 scenes in the show. Every scene tells its own story about the holiday season. In each one of these scenes is a world class act that we've scoured the universe to find, and we build the theme of the scene around that act. For instance, when we tell about the North Pole, we'll have a whole bunch of penguins and it will be snowing on stage, and there will be a main penguin who will be slipping and sliding and defying gravity on cylinders that are moving in different directions. When we're telling the story of decorating the tree with Christmas ornaments, we use jugglers to juggle all the ornaments.
Me: So each scene has a story that's related to Christmas or a Christmas event or tradition?
Neil Goldberg: Not just Christmas. We touch on Hanukah and we touch on New Year's. We touch on the generality of this season of the year when people are gathering with family, wrapping gifts, and giving presents, so we have this frazzled gift wrapping scene where ribbons are flying through the air and people are soaring around the stage.
Me: And this show will have music, both original and traditional?
Neil Goldberg: We use New York Broadway singers, and the entire score is original along with seasonal favorites like "Winter Wonderland" and "Holy Night" and "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Deck the Halls," though we've reorchestrated everything, using the words to fit what we do in the show. For me, I grew up in New York, and I have a recollection as a child of my parents taking me, my siblings and grandparents into the city, and we always did the traditional visit to Radio City Music Hall for Christmas, so that feeling of having the kind of show for Mom and Dad and the kids and grandparents that has something for everyone, that's been a common denominator in everything I've done over the past 26 years with Cirque Dreams. So instead of The Rockettes and their line of kick dancing, you're viewing talent that people are seeing for the first time in a Cirque Dreams holiday show.
Me: So how long would each of these twenty some scenes last?
Neil Goldberg: Nothing on stage will last more than four or four and a half minutes because I, as a director and producer, personally feel that's it's pretty difficult to keep people's attention, especially young kids because we want Mom and Dad to bring the three, four, and five-year-olds as well as the ten-year-olds, so everything constantly changes in this show, and add the fact that there are over 300 costume changes, it truly is a spectacle.
Me: I imagine having five semi trucks following five companies around the country is quite a juggling act for you.
Neil Goldberg: It is as much of a show behind the scenes as it is onstage. Now we've been to Atlanta before so we change the shows up every single season. There's always new acts, costumes, music, and scenery, so if people have seen it before, not only can they enjoy the tradition at the Fox Theatre, which is a beautiful place to go during the holiday season, but they're also going to see things that they've never seen before.
Me: So apparently you've added a third performance at the Fox on Sunday.
Neil Goldberg: How exciting is that?
Me: Those acrobats and actors must get pretty worn out to go from a 1:00 to a 5:30 show on a Sunday.
Neil Goldberg: Actually, you know what, we are careful in our staffing, and our casts have breaks for rest, and sometimes we'll even have a three show day if the demand is there. One of the things I love about doing this is that many of our acts are from Europe, and they are so happy to be showing their skills and imagination and craft in the United States, and audiences here seem to really appreciate this. The audiences will sit in wonder and say, "Wow, how did they do that?"
Me: I guess that with the "old-timey" circus dying out, you're presenting a kind of circus for the modern age.
Neil Goldberg: I do think that so long as there are creative and inventive people such as those in Cirque Dreams, contemporary circus arts will always have a place in the entertainment landscape in our country because the ingenuity and creative ability of these artists and what the human body can do is really incomparable. Now our rig is completely self-contained, almost like an erector set-remember those when we were kids? So it comes right off the truck and fits right on the stage so when we get into the Fox, we will use every bit of the height of the stage, and, you know, there is flying over the audience when they leap off the stage-it's exciting. It's just an exciting experience for people to see. And there is so much going on onstage in this show that actually being in the balcony might even be better seats than close to the stage.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze will be at the Fox Theatre on November 24 at 7:30 and November 25 at 1:00 and 5:30.