Banana Shpeel delays production for a 2nd time

Just one day after Cirque du Soleil's brand new theatrical production, Banana Shpeel, welcomed the public into the Apollo Theatre to greet the cast and get a glimpse of the new show, comes the announcment that its first performance has been delayed for a second time.

The show, which was to have began previews on 25 Feb 2010, will now have its first preview performance on 17 Mar 2010, no opening date has been announced.

For ticket-holders who are affected by this change, please contact Ticketmaster's customer service by calling 1-800-653-8000 and have the original Ticketmaster order number available.

The official reason for the delay is to allow the rehearsal period at the theater to integrate new performance elements. However, it is being widely reported that the show is in serious trouble and is still struggling to find its way.

Riedel of the New York Post reports "It is, according to several people working on the $20 million production, a "train wreck," a "catastrophe," a "nightmare" and, not to put too fine a point on it, "one of the worst shows you've ever seen."

Written and directed by David Shiner, Banana Shpeel had its world premiere engagement in Chicago on 19 Nov 2009 and was not well received. The production - which originally was to begin previews at New York's Apollo on 4 Feb 2010, ready for a 11 Feb 2010 opening - announced a three week delay in order to re-work the material. A new preview date was set for the 25 Feb 2010.

It is reported that Cirque du Soleil's founder Guy Laliberte, on seeing the changes made for the New York production, believes that the show has got worse, not better. If true, this will help explain the productions' second delay.

The show was originally to have starred Michael Longoria (Jersey Boys) and Annaleigh Ashford (Wicked), but they were dropped from the productioin just two weeks after their casting had been announced. The production said the cast change was necessary because the creative team had decided to re-write the show so that it is less story driven and as a result the characters to be played by the two stars have now been dropped from the story.

Under the direction of Band Leader Robert Cookman, the Banana Shpeel original score is performed live on stage by Roland Barber (trombone), Bobby Brennan (bass), James Campagnola (multi-instrumental), Iohann Laliberté (drums), Jean-François Ouellet (saxophone), Peter Sachon (cello) and Scott Steen (trumpet).

Banana Shpeel has "a roller-coaster mix of styles that blends comedy with tap, hip hop, eccentric dance and slapstick, all linked by a narrative that ignites a succession of wacky adventures. This is not circus, or a musical or a variety show, or even vaudeville. It is Banana Shpeel!"

The show's original synopsis was billed: Banana Shpeel plunges us into the world of Schmelky, a cruel and irritable producer who dangles fame and fortune in front of Emmett, an innocent and romantic actor who has come to audition for him. Emmett soon finds himself trapped in a flamboyant, anarchic world where Schmelky sows terror and reigns supreme. Emmett falls in love with the beautiful Katie and meets a bunch of absurd characters, including the strange Banana Man. But who is this mysterious Banana Man and how can Emmett escape the clutches of Schmelky and his henchmen?

The creative team features sets by Patricia Ruel, costumes by Dominique Lemieux, lighting by Bruno Rafie and sound by Harvey Robitaille.

Originally published on

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