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Lots of Work for So Much Cirque

Michele DeVinney

Michele DeVinney

Whatzup Features Writer

Published November 8, 2018

When Cirque Dreams returns to the Honeywell Center in Wabash, bringing with it the seasonal spectacular Holidaze, the audience will be treated to a visual and aural feast.

Music, dance, more than 300 costumes, and an astonishing cast of 20 are prepared to raise the bar of cirque performances, and acrobats will provide an afternoon and evening of entertainment that will launch the holiday season and leave an indelible impression.

The spectacle and majesty of Cirque Dreams is the vision of its producer Neil Goldberg and his own childhood memories of growing up in New York City. When planning what to include in a show about this time of the year, he had very strong images and some very personal mementos inspiring him.

“I wanted to include traditions that people could relate to and things that I had experienced as a child growing up in New York and going to Manhattan for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” Goldberg said. “Specifically, I have a 50-year collection that I began as a child of Christmas ornaments which now numbers about 10,000. Some people collect T-shirts or hats or magnets, but I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world, and I’ve been collecting these ornaments.

“I have a Faberge egg from St. Petersburg in Russia, and I have some ornaments from Hawaii. It’s really an art form. I’m Jewish and didn’t even grow up celebrating Christmas, but I have always been interested in what inspired these artists to create these ornaments.”

That artistry has in turn inspired Goldberg as he continues to hone and broaden the scope of the Holidaze production which is now a decade old. But while the show has visited our area before, Goldberg promises plenty of excitement for this year’s show.

“We’ve visited Wabash for the last few years, but this show is bigger and better and grander than before,” he said. “There’s new music, and there are about 100 new costumes since we were last there. There’s a new production number which I’m really excited about. We always do ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ and ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and ‘O Holy Night,’ but we’re adding ‘Deck the Halls’ this year. I talked to our musical director, and we came up with a new orchestration of it that is so modern, so contemporary, so fresh. I really think we’ve reinvented it and brought in new elements. Those are the ways we keep pushing Holidaze off the charts.”

Goldberg’s energy is pretty off the charts, as well. With five productions of Holidaze currently touring the country, that show is but one of nine Cirque Dreams productions Goldberg is overseeing.

While there’s tremendous demand to take Holidaze abroad, with Asia and Europe “banging down our doors to take the show there,” Goldberg says he’s been reluctant so far to do that, knowing the logistical requirements of expanding the show. Still, he admits that he probably can’t continue to say no and thinks those overseas performances many begin as soon as next year.

In the meantime, there are shows booked through 2020, and Goldberg says that work on next year’s touring schedule begins right after the holidays are over.

“On January 3, we start production for the shows in 2019,” he said. “We have a full year and have to get them all produced and rehearsed. We just try to entertain as many people as possible. We try to take every opportunity that comes along.”

While Cirque Dreams has generated many memorable performances over the year, Goldberg says it is Holidaze that has really made its mark on audiences.

“Holidaze is definitely one of our biggest successes, and demand for the show has grown so much over the years. I could definitely have six or seven productions of it out there traveling, but there aren’t enough days in the year to do it all. Last year we had four productions of it touring the country, this year we have five, and next year we’ll have six. It’s just a feel-good show and puts people in the holiday spirit. It’s a great feeling to provide that.”

While he admits that putting on these shows is a lot of work, he loves the variety and creative energy that his job requires and provides.

“This is not a book musical, which is great too, but it’s exactly the same show day after day. That’s fine, but I’m not that person that wants to do the same show. I don’t want to be complacent. I like to be able to change the show every year, add new artistry, new singers, new production elements.”

Putting a show together that celebrates Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s all on one stage may be a lot of work, but Goldberg is clearly up to the challenge and is still excited by what he does.

“I’m a passionate guy, and anyone who’s passionate has to have a personal affection for what you do. I used my imagination a lot as a kid and was a big dreamer. Now I get to bring my dreams to life on stage.”


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