BWW Review: CIRQUE DREAMS - JUNGLE FANTASY at Starlight Theatre
Playing this weekend only on the Cohen Stage at Starlight Theatre is the traveling version of the very successful "Cirque Dreams - Jungle Fantasy" not to be confused with the "Cirque du Soleil." "Jungle Fantasy" is an entirely different animal from its Canadian-bred narrative distant relation.
"Cirque Dreams" as a family friendly, modern, circus production was greeted with thunderous applause and warm approval from the almost full, massive, eight thousand seat amphitheater inside Swope Park. And there can be nothing but praise for the wide menu of gymnasts, aerialists, jugglers, contortionists, and balance specialists.
"Jungle Fantasy" is set amidst a never quite identified rain forest. An attractive, mystical female singer appears. She serves as half narrator, half ringmaster throughout the two hour presentation. The other actors/performers are mainly costumed as forest creatures including at least two figures who serve as stagehands/clowns. The music is original with a slightly Alan Menkenish quality. The various circus acts are sprinkled throughout in an attempt at an overarching story thread.
You cannot help but be wowed by the strength and grace of the aerial gymnasts, the twin female trapeze artists, the jugglers, the balancers, and the pairs dancers on roller skates. These folks are all outstanding. They come from all over the world and should be identified to you, but are not singled out in the program.
The acts are mostly feats of skill and strength you could have seen in more traditional circus venues (if they still existed), but these have an updated twist. "Cirque Dreams" is an evolution of theatricality, European tradition, and traditional circus.
This reviewer must admit to being something of a Circus nerd. I'm still getting used to a world sans Ringling Brothers and its huge animal displays, parades, and complete with Top-hatted ringmaster. I remember seeing the tented version of Ringling as a boy complete with sideshow on the Chicago lakeshore.
The live animals are gone (at least in the western hemisphere), but the tradition goes on and continues to re-invent itself. "Jungle Fantasy" and its family of allied shows is a successful new take on a genre for which audiences continue to yearn. The family tradition of circus will continue to re-invent itself as times and public mores shift with time.
"Cirque Dreams" has become a successful family of shows that are available at Busch Gardens, on shipboard, in Las Vegas, on Broadway, for U.S. troops across the world, and on tour.
For those who miss the lions, tigers, bears, elephants, camels, chimps and assorted other animals, the Kansas City Zoo is just across the parking lot.
"Cirque Dreams - Jungle Fantasy" continues Saturday and Sunday at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City. Tickets are available at the Starlight box-office, at www.kcstarlight.com, or by telephone at (816) 363-7827.
Photos courtesy of Starlight Theatre.