BWW Reviews: Cirque Dreams Celebrates the Season with Jolly HOLIDAZE
Cirque Dreams offers a vision of Christmastime cheer with the company's sprightly seasonal production, Holidaze. While the show is slim in the way of storytelling - in essence, Christmas ornaments and holiday characters come to life and perform astounding feats of athleticism - it has plenty of style. The troupe of tumblers, contortionists, aerialists, and singers touring with Cirque Dreams Holidaze is decked in an eye-catching array of colorful costumes, giving a kaleidoscopic effect to the artists' nearly non-stop acrobatic motion.
Cirque Dreams (not affiliated with Guy Laliberté's Cirque du Soleil) marks its fifth season on tour with Holidaze, and the show's talented company and high-quality stagecraft speak to the enduring popularity of this family-friendly holiday treat. Costumes are detailed and rich-looking, and various set pieces magically transform with some impressive effects. Considering the limitations of a theatrical stage, Dreams also well utilizes space, both on the ground and in the air, to display each performance at its best.
Some of the outstanding acts in Cirque Dreams Holidaze include Andrii Balashov and Kristina Prokopyuk's breathtaking routine on roller skates, a spellbinding quick-change costume presentation by Evgeny Vasilenko and Anna Zgurovskaya, and the outstanding balancing skills of "Wobbly Penguin" Kirill Rebkovets. Vladimir Malachikhin's combined hand balancing and contortion act displays an impressive "on ice" quality, while Beau Sargent's aerial acrobatics earn unfeigned gasps and applause.
A quartet of skipping reindeer, though hampered by a few snagged lines on press night, brings lots of energy and fun to their act, hula hoop tricks performed under black light effects are athletically and artistically delightful, and the trio of Cirque Dreams singers - Emma Brock, Mat Burrow, and Kara Lewis - impresses with lovely vocals and total dedication to each lyric. The jewel and swirling ornament costumes are remarkably memorable additions to the stage as well.
Yet even with so many solid aspects in the production, a few elements keep the show from soaring as fully as it could. In an unrelentingly-merry effort to personify and portray every single aspect of Christmastime - from sleigh bells to poinsettia plants to spools of ribbon - many of the featured performers wind up battling background characters for the spotlight.
For example, juggler Alexander Kulakov's spirited act - with some very impressive balancing tricks and complicated catches - is upstaged by the arrival of Slinky-esque candy canes. The candies' jaunty movements and engaging little personalities entirely win over the audience from the moment they enter the spotlight, but the confectionary scene stealers would better serve as a transitional element between performers so as not to distract. Likewise, Emanuel and Maximiliano Laurino's spine-tingling Icarian Games draws "oohs" and "aahs" with each flip and catch; yet with dancing gingerbread men cavorting around them, elves overseeing the building of a gingerbread house in the back corner, and a gigantic inflatable gingerbread cookie rising to the rafters as the scene closes, the eye is repeatedly drawn away from the acrobatic feats to the jumble of activity elsewhere on stage.
A few scenes also display a tenuous conceptual connection. The hand-to-hand/foot juggling act is impressively executed, but having Santa Claus perform such a physically-intimate routine with a young lady clad in a Britney Spears-style schoolgirl costume feels incongruous, at the very least. Also, the production missteps at the close by pairing the sacred carol "O Holy Night" with a romantically-staged aerial pas de deux.
Yet these hiccups did not seem to seriously detract from the overall enjoyment of Cirque Dreams Holidaze, as the Providence audience was on its feet to applaud the troupe's acrobatic feats. The production is festive, frothy entertainment, and a unique addition to the compliment of seasonally-themed shows currently on stage throughout Rhode Island.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze plays a limited run at the Providence Performing Arts Center through Sunday, December 7, 2014. Tickets can be purchased online at www.ppacri.org, by phone (401) 421-ARTS (2787), or by visiting the box office at 220 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI. Ticket prices range from $28-$68 and discounted rates are available for groups of 20 or more.
Photo credit: The Providence Performing Arts Center