Cirque Dreams has many different productions and ensembles touring at once, apparently due to an audience demand for their theatrical circus hybrid. Their holiday offering, Holidaze, is playing through the weekend at the Chicago Theater. While you may find yourself awed by some of the physical endeavors, Cirque Dreams' production is more akin to theme park entertainment than anything resembling a tour with a premium price tag.
Much of the show's struggles stem from the disconnect between the theatrical elements and the circus performances. The production features two distinct casts that don't overlap other than walking past each other periodically. Director Neil Goldberg overwhelms the audience at virtually every moment, packing each inch of the stage with holiday props, ensemble members and decorated set pieces.
This over-saturation bleeds into the theatrical numbers as well, which feel extra half-baked next to some of the incredible physical artistry featured throughout. These moments would surely feel more energetic and exciting if they featured an ensemble that didn't seem so removed. Truly, if Cirque Dreams were willing to scale back their endeavors to simply feature their astounding acts, the production would benefit greatly. The story and original music do not work, and with so many familiar holiday tunes in the public domain it's silly to, instead, write original numbers like a dramatic version of Patty Cake.
I hate to be a such a Grinch (especially since I was really looking forward to seeing this production), but if the half-empty, nearly-silent Chicago Theater audience is indicative of this tour as a whole, it may be time to send this production off with the Ghosts of Christmas Past. With so many tremendous home-grown productions to take in (many for half the price tag), I simply cannot recommend seeing a tour that feels like an obvious cash grab. Cirque Dreams Holidaze is theatrical fruitcake: store-bought, stale, and jam-packed with way too many ingredients.
Not Recommended ★✩✩✩
Review by Jason Berger
Cirque Dreams Holidaze continues at the Chicago Theater through Dec 16. Info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.