Let’s not talk about what Cirque Dreams Holidaze is not (hint: it’s not a manifestation of that other cirque show with a capital C)… let’s talk about what this show is; an absolute sensory overload experience. Example: it’s not enough for there to be a costumed juggler center stage with 8 balls dancing precariously about a platform and performer, no, there has to be live singing and dancing and giant set pieces being assembled and puppets and a candy colored light show and it has to be all at the same time. If you aren’t challenged by WHAT you should be looking at, at any given time, you’re not doing it Cirque Dreams style. And, while in some instances that might read as a case of excess, you can’t deny that wrapped up in that busy visual, there isn’t something for everyone to look at. The short attention span is going to be massively catered to in this show, despite a 2 hour-long run time. Kids of the digital age rejoice, I think this one is just for you.
Now, there were times I was convinced the producers were intentionally trying to send me into a seizure with their continual onslaught of festive, flashing lights. And, yes at times I felt like I was trapped inside my Casio keyboard that I got for Christmas when I was 10, and that it was somehow stuck on the preprogrammed pop rhythm. And, sure there were odd visuals that made me wonder if someone had spiked my drink with Peyote, but most holiday stage traditions involve ghosts, flashbacks and dancing inanimate objects, so really this isn’t too far-fetched when it comes right down to it. And, we do need to talk about the spinning. So. Much. Spinning. Spinning acrobats. Roller skaters spinning in circles. Spinning hoops. Spinning lights. Spinning balls. Spinning plates. So very much spinning. I get motion sick easily and by the close of act two I was fighting off some noticeable queasiness. Are you getting the picture?
Aside from the above mentioned repetition and technical chaos, the athletics and entertainment were undeniably well represented. Contortionists, balancing acts, jugglers, clowns, magic, etc. it was all there and more. The only thing missing (and it wasn’t really missed) was a plot. Yeah, don’t look for a plot; I’m pretty sure you won’t find one. What you will find without any effort is a cue to the audience to applaud about every 60 seconds. Normally this forced praise would bug me, but I can’t walk a straight line sober so I certainly can’t deny the performers some love for their achievements and enthusiasm. There were certainly a number of instances of grimaces, gasps and even a “no way” from me that were authentically generated, so sincere kudos to the cast for the stepping up to and over the demands of Holidaze.
So you may be sensing some ambivalence here. Fair enough. The best I can explain is for me the show is like kettle corn. It looks great, it smells great and it tastes great. It’s a traditional holiday treat with a powerful lure in its own rite…and as long as you don’t have too much, on an empty stomach, and wash it down with a soda, a churros and an Icee… it’s awesome. This show maybe have had too many sugary chasers for my constitution is all.
Bottom line; this is a family show (with just a few instances of questionable tight panted near-twerking moments) and the acrobatics are undeniably well executed. I don’t have kids, but I know parents make “sacrifices” all the time for their progeny. They sit through Teletubbies and Barney and Elmo and Frozen (yeah, I went there) and all sorts of things that may not be targeted even remotely to the adult sentiment, yet prove an uncanny, wonderful experience for their kids. And, if it works for the kids, you really can’t put a price on a great time out with the family. We need more of that I’d say, year round.
If I put my kid of 2014 hat on, I’m thinking they will enjoy this spectacle and as a result the parents will have earned their good deed points for the early part of the holiday season. While a bit too overwhelming for me personally and I can’t say with any confidence this is going to be a win for adults only date night, I can certainly send it into its run with a family stamp of approval. 3 ½ jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for a dizzy, display of loud and colorful holiday cheer with a strong “do not try this at home” sticker attached with regard to the acrobatics. Cirque Dreams Holidaze plays through November 30th at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.