So I’m watching the beautiful show “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre, completely enamored with the company’s ability to test the bounds of human physiology. And of all the thrilling spectacle offered up, there was one performer who stood out for me. Not because of his perfection, but for his lack thereof, and his fierce determination.
Maybe it’s because he was dressed in a silly penguin suit, with his charming, simple face. He was not some carved-up Adonis, but a regular, average Joe. Balancing was his thing.
It also stood out to me because it was the hardest thing to watch. How’s this for a setup? Steel roller thingy, small stool, another roller thingy, bigger stool, roller thingy, and a board that he stands on. He was not successful the first two attempts, which honestly, was a bit frightening. And just as the roller went a tad too far to the left, and it seemed the evening would end with a rare hint of Cirque imperfection, he found his center, and slowly, gently stood, triumphantly.
It was then that I shouted, “OH MY GOD, HE DID IT!” Even better, my nine-year-old daughter squealed with delight, laughing uncontrollably while grabbing my arm and shaking it as hard as she could. A moment amongst moments for sure.
The show has that visceral level of engagement, the kind of energy that appeals to audiences of all ages. It moves at a brisk pace, featuring festivity and ornaments that come alive at every turn. The entire show was unified nicely by wonderful renditions of some classic Christmas tunes, the vocals led with joy and conviction by Albert Jennings and Christiana Rodi.
The spectacle of a Cirque Dreams show is second to none, with sublime production values at the forefront. To this end, the phenomenal scenic design by Jon Craine, lit by lighting designer Jessica Sentak informed the stage and further glitzed up the phenomenal cast.
To clarify, this is not a show produced by those who are responsible for the Cirque Du Soleil franchise, which is headquartered in Montreal. Cirque Dreams is its own separate entity based in Florida, with at least 11 variations of the Dreams show traveling all over the world and on Broadway. Cirque Du Soleil actually filed a trademark infringement lawsuit in the late 1990’s against all companies in the United States that used the word cirque in their names, with Cirque Productions founder Neil Goldberg accepting the challenge in order to maintain the name of his shows. It was a challenge he won six years later.
So many performers go about their craft with such gusto, which creates a strong feeling of jaw-dropping awe amongst the house. Contortionist sisters Buyankhishig and Erdenesuvd Ganbaatar from Mongolia were a marvel as they created an evocative Christmas ornament high atop the stage. The power and grace at “break-neck” speed of Ukrainians Viacheslav Liubivets and his roller skating partner Olena Olnieva was astounding, And Rony Gomez Pupo showcasing his amazing coordination when it comes to juggling was sharp and precise. And in just another example of physical dexterity, A gingerbread cookie Samail Haftu uses his feet to flip around a gingerbread cookie boy, Amanual Hayle, up and down, around and around. Just plain crazy.
Add in the physical hilarity of American Billy Jackson and his conducting of some audience members in a very fun bell symphony, and you have a show that is so wonderfully varied and an absolute blast to witness. And while there are plenty of acts, tricks, magical costume changes and other sorts of big-top hijinks, the show moves at an extremely brisk pace.
Unfortunately, the show comes into the Bay Area for a very short run, a run that feels like a very vivid and magical dream during a snowy, winter nap.
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
SHNSF Presents “Cirque Dreams Holidaze”
Through Dec. 15th
Tickets range from $45 to $160
The Curran Theatre
445 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
The Word: A dazzling spectacle that warms the heart for the holidays.
Stars: 4 out of 4
For tickets, call (888) 746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com