“ ‘Twas the Night Before …” is billed as Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever Christmas-themed show, but that’s the only real first offered by this Yuletide spectacle, which amounts to gaudy new packaging on a familiar product.
Of course, that product is nothing to sneeze at, given that it consists of circus artistry delivered by performers who surmount a degree of difficulty that is off the charts.
The goal of any Cirque show is to pummel the senses, to bombard the audience with sights and sounds. The show’s title notwithstanding, Cirque’s operational mode remains more exclamation point than ellipsis in " ‘Twas the Night Before …”
While you’ll find few surprises if you’ve seen a Cirque production before, the young audiences at whom “Night” is primarily pitched aren’t likely to be disappointed.
Conceived and directed by James Hadley, “Night” follows a story line that’s a bit more linear than other, concept-driven Cirque productions, but the story is still largely a pretext for the performers to do their dazzling stuff.
It begins quietly, with a single snowflake drifting down from on high to the stage of the Boch Center Wang Theatre. Then we are introduced to a girl named Isabella (Alicia Beaudoin). It’s Christmas Eve, and her father (Benjamin Thomas Courtenay) is eager to continue their tradition of reading “A Visit from St. Nicholas” to her.
But Isabella is simply not feeling the Christmas spirit. Her smartphone engrosses the girl more than any musty old poem. Even the gift of a new bicycle does not arouse her interest.
When she and her father are separated by a snowstorm, her journey begins and the stage is set for an array of circus performers. Their exploits, one after another, are designed to replace Isabella’s erstwhile indifference with a sense of wonder. Each routine is purportedly inspired by a line from the poem.
The set aims to evoke a winter wonderland draped with tinsel, and when it comes to costumes, Cirque does not stint on the glitter or the glitz. “Night” features more than 40 pieces of recorded music, often blasted at top volume, most of them original compositions by Jean-Phi Goncalves, some of them Christmas tunes like “Jingle Bells.” The show’s usual run time is 85 minutes, which may be a concession to youthful attention spans, but still seems skimpy. The dance sequences are more ho-hum than ho-ho-ho.
Yet one continues to marvel at the ability of the Cirque troupe — the cast of more than two dozen hails from 14 different countries — to push the human body past what one might think of as its limits.
Their timing, coordination, and overall execution were mostly impeccable Wednesday night, but for a couple of flubs. Those miscues amounted to mere blips, considering how well the performers pulled off stunts that seemed to defy the laws of gravity and probability alike.
Aerialists Karyna Konchakivska and Suren Bozyan, connected to each other by duo straps, executed an intricate ballet 20 feet above the stage. Performing on a small circular platform, roller skaters Royer Segura and Emelie Sandberg whirled and twirled as if their space was as spacious as the Frog Pond on Boston Common. (According to press materials, they reach a top speed of 30 m.p.h.)
Attired as reindeer, half a dozen acrobats (Quentin Greco, Evan Tomlinson Weintraub, Phelipe Da Silva Albuquerque, Jin Ge Wang, Sekou Camara, and Daan Kenis) hurtled through hoops whose openings were as small as 18 inches, and that stood as high as 10 feet. Emir Buhari Erdogan made the Cyr Wheel seem like an extension of his body.
A constant presence throughout the performance was a bearded juggler, played by Roberto Carlos Carbajal Aguilar, who demonstrated impressive dexterity as he juggled three batons at once. The juggler’s real identity, when it is eventually revealed, will shock no one.
And Isabella? Let’s just say that when she finally embraces the spirit of Christmas, she makes splendid use of that bicycle.
‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE …
Conceived and directed by James Hadley. Production by Cirque du Soleil. At Boch Center Wang Theatre. Through Dec. 11. $35-$120. 800-982-2787, www.bochcenter.org