Every year, Broadway offers us a surprise. A few years ago, the puppets of "Avenue Q" were the big hit. This season we've seen a green-faced monster do a soft-shoe in ï¿½Young Frankenstein,ï¿½ mermaids and crabs glide across the stage in ï¿½Little Mermaid,ï¿½ Greek roller-skating muses in ï¿½Xanadu,ï¿½ and now a circus, minus, thankfully, the smelly animals. ï¿½Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasyï¿½ has come to Broadway.
ï¿½Cirque Dreamsï¿½ is the latest production of Neil Goldbergï¿½s Cirque Productions, creators of international performance and touring sensations, "Cirque Ingenieux," "Cirque Dreams Coobrila," and "Cirque Dreams Illumination." Since 1993, it has been the companyï¿½s mission to blend European circus artistry with Broadway theatricality, and to a large extent, Goldberg has succeeded.
"Cirque Dreams " is visually stunning, with gorgeous detailed costumes and backdrops reminiscent of a Peter Maxx psychedelic trip to an imaginary exotic playland. From the opening in which huge turtle-like beings crawl across the stage, to the prancing squawking ostriches, to the luminescent owls, this production has us enthralled with its inventiveness. Add to this the balletic butterflies, the no-doubt invertebrate lizard-like contortionists, balancing giraffes, and the fantasy flyers, and you have the makings of a great acrobatic, aesthetically exquisite family show.
The question is: Why Broadway? Did Goldberg lose his way en route to Madison Square Garden or Radio City Music Hall just as "Blast!," the half-time drill-team extravaganza, did seven years ago? Nothing like it has ever been done on a Broadway stage before, so why now?
Goldberg has a not-very-secret ulterior motive: winning a Tony for Best Special Theatrical Event, a new category created for anomalies such as this that don't fit into the traditional slots of Best Play or Best Musical. Weï¿½ll have to wait till next year to see if his own fantasies are fulfilled, but for the savvy five-year-old boy sitting behind us, his were. He was dazzled -- and so were the grandparents.
"Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy" is an American creation, and not to be confused with "Cirque du Soleil" which originated in Quebec, and is geared towards more mature, more sophisticated audiences. But that doesn't mean it's just for kids. You'll be amazed at the acrobatic feats and utter strength of the performers, hold your breath as the trapeze artists fly above the stage, and gasp as the 3-D human propelled tetrahedrons twirl with abandon to soaring musical accompaniment. Itï¿½s summer in the city and this is where to take the whole family.
Barbara Mehlman & Geri Manus
"A stunts-and-spandex spectacular that opened Thursday night at the Broadway Theater, is ideally suited for children ages 6 to 12 with an advanced interest in either jungle fauna, gymnastics or sequins. If your child has a passion for all three, by all means waste no shekels on tickets for ï¿½The Lion King.ï¿½ This is the show for you."
New York Times
"It's not a Broadway show in the traditional sense, of course. It's a spectacle of acrobatics and feats of strength done to airy music, dazzling lighting effects and in eye-popping costumes. " & "For light summer entertainment, this is a "Fantasy" worth indulging."
New York Daily News
"Boasts dazzling circus acts in a highly theatrical presentation replete with elaborate scenery and wall-to-wall music. It's all harmless fun, and should prove catnip to the hordes of entertainment-starved family tourists who invade Manhattan every summer."
New York Post
"Cirque Dreams" tends to be a yawner -- if not a total snoozer." & "There's nothing extraordinary about "Cirque Dreams" that transforms it into a must-see Broadway event."
"Everything rides on the physical feats, and the vast majority of those in "Jungle Fantasy" are daring enough and clever enough to captivate audiences of all ages without overstaying their welcome."
"'Cirque Dreams' lacks the sophistication of 'Cirque du Soleil.' Anyone who has seen the $165 million battle-adventure 'Ka'' or the Beatles- infused 'Love,' both playing in custom-built theaters in Las Vegas, will be disappointed by this earthbound Cirque du Syosset. That said, the cast is able. The stunts, if you haven't seen them in other shows, are impressive. All cirques are not created equal, but 'Cirque Dreams' does provide a mild, family-friendly diversion.
"Often the effect is of chaotic overkill when the main attraction is competing for focus with cancan-dancing bees, bustier-clad zebras, faux-balletic butterflies, goofy emus, a unicorn or even the versatile antics of Balestracci, who gets in on most of the acts. Not to mention tiresome Mother Nature, slinking around like a refugee from some high-art drag show."