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Theater review

‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze’ casts a strange but hard-to-resist spell

The two-hour “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” features 30 performers.Cirque Dreams/Courtesy of Cirque Dreams

Let’s face it, the next two weeks are going to resemble a circus: in the stores, on the airwaves, and, come Christmas morning, in a lot of homes.

So the arrival of an actual circus in Boston at this particular moment — the weirdly entrancing “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,’’ which has hurtled into the Shubert Theatre at the Boch Center for an exceedingly brief run that ends Sunday — makes a certain kind of seasonal sense. So, too, does the show’s atmosphere of nonstop pandemonium, and even, perhaps, its glitzy packaging.

But you’d probably want to throw out the welcome mat for “Cirque Dreams Holidaze’’ at any time of year because of the dizzying level of circus artistry on display. The two-hour show features 30 performers who hail from the US, Japan, Ethiopia, Spain, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, China, and Mongolia. Their talent? Off the charts. The degree of difficulty for many of their feats? Sky-high. Their execution? Flawless, at least on Friday night.

Atmospherically, “Cirque Dreams Holidaze’’ is a bizarre, hyperactive mashup of elements that sometimes distract from the circus acts that should be the focus. It’s a full-on sensory immersion in which Las Vegas meets family entertainment meets musical theater meets acid trip, with elements of Santa’s Workshop and an old-time TV variety show thrown into the mix.


The premise of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,’’ created and directed by Neil Goldberg, is that Christmas tree ornaments somehow come to life, one after another, and proceed to tell their own stories via circus performance. A few playbill listings of characters will give you some idea: Cookie Flipper, Skipping Reindeer, Singing Dickens, Whirly Birly, and Holiday Bouncer.

A pair of 30-foot-high inflatable Nutcracker-style soldiers stand guard on either side of the stage, at the rear of which looms a 25-foot-high, metal-framed Christmas tree. Candy canes inch across the stage at one point. There’s a Santa sighting, and Mrs. Claus is a twinkling presence as well. A couple of Elvis impersonators make an appearance. Salutes are delivered to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and New Year’s as well as Christmas. All of it is driven by incessantly pulsing music, consisting of original tunes and holiday carols that are sung live to recorded instrumentals, though the lyrics are often hard to make out.


Where “Cirque Dreams Holidaze’’ casts a spell is not in its clumsy attempts to be a quasi-musical but in the stunts performed by aerialists, contortionists, acrobats, and wheel spinners, along with the juggling, balancing acts, and other routines. Even while attired as penguins, gingerbread men, snowmen, elves, ragdolls, or whatever — there are 300 costumes in all, from every color of the rainbow — the performers demonstrate remarkable timing, teamwork, dexterity, flexibility, fearlessness, and just plain skill.

Guys costumed as reindeer jump rope at blinding speed, three at a time. Two quick-change specialists pull off a series of rapid-fire costume transitions that will have you shaking your head in disbelief. In one mesmerizing routine, a male and female performer soar aloft on aerial silks, both of them portraying angels, while a singer onstage croons “O Holy Night.’’

About midway through, “Cirque Dreams Holidaze’’ veers into the realm of audience participation, often a cringe-inducing section of any show. But it’s charming and funny thanks to performer Billy Jackson. As he conscripts audience members to make music by shaking holiday bells, Jackson projects a world of personality without saying a word. It’s the rare moment in “Cirque Dreams Holidaze’’ when less is more.



Created and directed by Neil Goldberg

Music and lyrics by Jill Winters and David Scott. Associate director/choreographer, Tara Jeanne Vallee.

Presented by the Boch Center. At: Shubert Theatre at Boch Center. Through Sunday. Tickets: $43.00-$103.00, 866-348-9738, www.bochcenter.org

Don Aucoin can be reached at aucoin@globe.com.