Vaudeville is likely the most influential entertainment genre our nation's history. For about 50 years, beginning in the 1880s, audiences flocked to theaters to see shows, usually consisting of several separate, specialty acts all on one bill. You could see jugglers, magicians, acrobats, contortionists, ventriloquists, etc. each doing their act, one, after the other, after the other.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze, which plays at Providence Performing Arts Center through December 18, 2011, successfully carries on the theatrical tradition, with a modern sensory-overload twist.
A brief mental inventory of my past reviews makes me think that it is unlikely that I have ever used the phrase “death-defying” to describe what I saw on stage. It is, however, wildly appropriate here.
Martin Lamberti delights as evening’s Ringmaster / Bell Conductor as he guides us through the evening. The imagery is gorgeous, on a grand and extraordinarily vivid scale. Acrobats soar, quite beautifully, through the air. Contortionist bend and move their bodies in ways that I have never seen. Skaters whirl on a tiny little pedestal, spinning each other around with alarming intensity.
With two acts running about two hours total, there are about two dozen scenes, with most performers appearing in both acts. If there is a flow-through narrative to the production beyond “It‘s Christmas“, I wasn’t clever enough to pick up on it. It hardly matters.
In two hours, the performers in Cirque Dreams Holidaze managed to genuinely mystify, frighten and entertain me - often simultaneously.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze plays at the Providence Performing Arts Center through December 18, 2011. Ticket prices range from $36 - $63 and can be purchased at the PPAC Box Office which is located at 220 Weybosset St., Providence, RI; by calling (401) 421-2787 or at www.ppacri.org.
Photo: Martin Lamberti as the Bell Conductor, courtesy of Cirque Dreams Holidaze.