By Rob Cline/ Correspondent
CEDAR RAPIDS—After Cirque Dreams Holidaze, I was dazed all right.
The show, part of the Broadway at the Paramount series, played to a near-capacity crowd on Tuesday night (12/4/12). The audience lost at least one member at intermission as the woman sitting next to me called it a night, making it clear that she couldn’t get out fast enough. I was sorely tempted to follow her example.
The circus acts at the center of the show were, for the most part, well performed by the international cast. But the show upends itself with a host of distractions. It was as though a delicate and intricate holiday gift had been dropped in an oversized box and wrapped in so much garish paper that the gift itself might never be found.
The circus acts were just what you would expect at such a show — acrobats and aerialists, jugglers and jesters, folks on bikes and skates, and more — and the majority of performers were both skilled and charismatic. Highlights included an amazing little girl (planted in the audience) who performed feats of strength, flexibility and nimbleness with “Santa Claus”; a deft juggler with a knack for charming the crowd; and a balancing act that was impressive despite a couple of miscues.
A few of the acts were less successful either due to execution problems (the jump ropers) or weakly executed choreography (a trio of men who built structures with their bodies), but these were the exceptions.
However, the gaudy costumes and set, the excessive ancillary action on stage, and the mind-numbingly loud and repetitive music were such distractions that I found it hard to focus on the performers at center stage.
The depth of the problem was cast into stark relief late in the first act when a single clown — aided only by his baton, his comic instincts and five audience members who had been given bells to shake — created the most refreshing, genuine moments of the show.
In the second act, the dizzying commotion did seem to settle down a bit, allowing the spotlight to truly fall on the performers. A lovely aerial act — performed to a shaky (and perhaps inappropriate) rendition of “Oh Holy Night” — rounded out the show. The audience rose to its feet and gave a cheer, suggesting that many in attendance were able to focus on the positive, as is appropriate over the “holidaze.”