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The Other Cirque

Friday afternoon, I took off early from work to see a 2 pm performance of Cirque Dreams' "Illumination" at the Hanover Theater in Worcester, MA.

There's a promotional video on YouTube, and several other clips available.


Traffic in downtown Worcester is horrible, at least on Friday afternoons, at least when people are stopping traffic to let pedestrians cross to the theater, at least when you miss the parking garage on the first pass (wrong street, wrong direction) and have to try to turn around to get back to it, and then find it's full and have to try somewhere else. I first passed the garage at 1:30 pm. I got back to it, and found it was full, at 1:55 pm. Luckily I found a metered spot. Even more luckily, the intermission was long enough to feed the meter.

The Hanover Theater is a small gem, truly lovely, gorgeously decorated in velvet and polished wood and floral carpeting, and There can't be a bad seat in it, and the ticket takers and ushers are all very lovely elderly people who obviously care very much about their theater, as if welcoming you to their home. I honestly will come back on nearly any excuse, just because it's such a nice setting.

Cirque Dreams really is a Cirque du Soleil knock-off. Honestly, I wanted them to be something else. There's so much room between a regular circus and Cirque du Soleil that I thought they'd have no problem being something in-between without trading on the other Cirque's rep. Yes, even with circus acts built around a dramatic theme, even with a singer to pull all the scenes together. But when they parade background characters in surreal costumes such as headless business suits and crescent moon-heads and hand-stilt walking traffic barriers, then they're seriously crossing into knock-off territory.

Is their talent as good? No. It's true, they have the handicap of a normal proscenium stage, and a small one at that. It's true, their ticket prices are much less than Cirque du Soleil's and one should't expect the same return. Don't get me wrong, the performers are good, and it's certainly worth the price. If anything, they're also handicapped by trying to jam too much on the stage at once, where it's sometimes hard to appreciate the feats because of distractions. One of the few unique performances was from a guy who played the drums by juggling balls onto the drum and cymbal heads. He was very, very good. But you didn't hear just the percussion, you heard loud music with very over-miked percussion, so fake-sounding that if he'd dropped every ball it wouldn't have been surprising to hear the music and beats continue just the same. There's just too much flash over substance. The strap dancer doesn't do much on the straps. But he keeps dunking himself in a bathtub of water, so whatever he does is accompanied by a shining spray of water droplets. The perch aerialist does minor acrobatics, but she does it on a chair above a shiny spinning tube balanced on her partner's head. And then switches to different high perch with shiny spinning stars on it. And then to another perch inside a set of glowing spinning rings. The balancing part is the same, the acrobatics are nearly the same, but see, it glows!

The overall impression? If Cirque du Soleil is the circus equivalent of opera and ballet, then Cirque Dreams is Broadway theater, and maybe, ungenerously, a touring version of that Broadway show, where flashy costumes, bright lights, and loud music are where the producers have placed their trust, not in the talent.



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
May. 13th, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
List of acts:
1) quick-change artist
2) wire walker
3) black light dancer
4) acrobats
5) audience participation skit
6) strong man
7) "flippers" and contortionist
8) "hand-feet"
9) juggler/drummer
10) ??? in hoop
11) ??? dancing
12) rope dancer and balancing chairs act and tubes acrobats
13) male "garbage"
14) wet "romantic" strap dancers
15) hoop on forehead balancing
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )