The holidays are a time when traditions are extremely important. One of the more recent traditions in our area is the visit of Cirque Dreams Holidaze. Having performed at the Honeywell Center in Wabash the last few Christmas seasons, northeast Indiana this year boasts a November performance at the Honeywell and a December performance at the Embassy Theatre.
Balancing traditions with keeping things fresh is the show’s producer, Broadway director, theater producer, and founder of Cirque Dreams and Cirque Productions, Neil Goldberg.
With a company that began with Goldberg and two others in 1993, Cirque now employs more than 200 plus the 250 performers who work in six companies to tour all over the country in the weeks leading up to the holidays.
Although not anxious to give away any surprises, Goldberg is willing to hint at a few of the things that he has in store for audiences this year.
“We always have new things in store which is one reason why we love returning to places we’ve been to before, like the theater in Wabash,” he said. “It’s become a comfortable place because when you have six companies touring simultaneously in 60 cities, it’s nice to return someplace that’s familiar.
“But it’s also fun to go to new theaters like the place we’re going to in Fort Wayne. But audiences can definitely expect some new things. As an artist and a person with great passion for what I do, our team always looks for something new or else you get stagnancy, and it gets boring.”
One new thing is the finale which Goldberg said was inspired by listening to choir music and thinking about ways to incorporate that into the show.
“I don’t want to say too much about it, but it involves a choir and will just make you feel so good about the holiday season.”
A real juggling act
Goldberg admitted that the show focuses more on the secular aspect of the holidays, and his own attachment to the Christmas season evolved from a hobby he began as a young Jewish boy who never celebrated Christmas himself.
“When I was a boy of six or seven, I started taking tinsel and ornaments off of the trees that I’d see in the trash in January. Now 50 some odd years later, I have a collection of over 10,000, many of which I’ve bought as I traveled around the world. I have a Faberge egg ornament I bought in St. Petersburg, Russia, and I have a Santa on his sleighboard that I bought in Hawaii. I talk a lot in interviews about my collection, and people want to come to my house and see all of them. For me they aren’t religious things, and I rarely show them to anyone out of respect for my Jewish family.”
Goldberg laughed as he mentioned his family, but he also pointed out that he has designed more than 300 costumes for the show basing those designs on his various ornaments.
Appreciating the ornaments as art and not just holiday décor is a big part of his inspiration for Cirque Dreams Holidaze as well as his many other productions.
But this time of year, as many are starting to spend time with family, preparing special meals, and shopping for loved ones, Goldberg is juggling multiple companies that are performing at multiple venues around the country each night. How does he keep all those balls in the air?
“Well…it’s very stressful,” he said, laughing. “I usually don’t say that, but as I was sitting here flipping through the script looking for things to answer your questions and you asked me that, I just had to say yes, it’s very stressful right now! You know last year we unloaded all of the trucks from the tours on January 15, and we started back up again on February 1. But we are amazingly organized.”
Talent from all over the globe
A big challenge comes in bringing together his international cast of artists who perform in the shows.
“There were a lot of countries that used to approve visas for people with unique artistic talents, and they don’t approve them anymore,” Goldberg said. “So we have to start earlier and work a little harder, and we always have a Plan B or a Plan C.”
Overcoming those obstacles is just one part of the huge undertaking that Goldberg handles every year. But he feels the effort is worth it when he knows audiences are going to enjoy the show.
“I’m proud that we can be an affordable part of people’s holiday celebration,” he said. “The tickets at Wabash start at $25, and I’m proud to take a big spectacle like Holidaze to people. I love playing some of the big cities too, but I’m also happy that we go to smaller towns and visit performing centers or places like Wabash or old vaudeville places like you described in Fort Wayne. I’ve always had such a passion for dance and design and musical theater, and I love being able to bring all of those things together and share it.”
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