UPDATE: Congratulations to winner Heather Rhodes!
ORIGINAL POST: Jill Winters is scared of heights.
But that doesn’t stop the creative and music director for Cirque Dreams from tracking down performers who are most definitely unafraid of heights to appear in her shows. From thousands of audition tapes she receives each year from circus artists, Winters travels the world seeking out a select few, from Russia to Ethiopia. The aim is to recruit these stellar professionals into one of her “Cirque” shows touring the United States.
You’ll get to see some of the best of those performers in “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” which plays Tuesday, Dec. 19, and Wednesday, Dec. 20, at the Saroyan Theatre as part of the Broadway in Fresno series. (Scroll down for a chance to enter my ticket giveaway, which includes dinner for two at Cosmopolitan Tavern and free parking for the evening.) I got the chance to chat with Winters by phone about the show. Here are Five Things to Know:
This is the 10th anniversary of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” so it has kind of a “greatest hits” feel. (“It’s crazy that this show has been going on for so long,” Winters says.) Expect 300 costumes, 20 acts, live singers, original music and seasonal favorites. While Christmas gets a lot of stage time, the family-friendly format includes tributes to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and New Year’s Day, too.
Fresno has been particularly lucky the past couple of years when it comes to the timing of touring holiday shows. Last year “Elf: The Musical” played just two weeks before Christmas, and “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is even more Yuletide friendly, coming just a week before Christmas. Don’t think that all cities get such timeliness. Most tours start out in early to mid-November and extend all the way into early January.
The first incarnation of “Holidaze” 10 years ago was a hit with an opening featuring a giant Christmas trees with performers as the “ornaments,” and the tradition continues. There are new acts as well: “This year we have a four-person jump-rope team from Hungary,” Winters says. “They’re all dressed as reindeer, which is cute.” And don’t forget the contortionist in a martini glass.
When Winters is looking for new acts, she wants stuff that people have never seen before. That’s why she was excited to bring on The Glass Balancer, who balances an entire chandelier of crystal glasses on his nose, then walks up a ladder. (Kids, do not try this home, unless you were born into a circus family.) She found him in Russia, which is one of her go-to spots for amazing acts. Spain and Ethiopia rank up there, too.
I admit to Winters that I get really nervous at these types of shows, worried that one of the performers will somehow take a death dive to the stage floor of the Saroyan, thereby scarring small children in the audience (and me) forevermore. Ah, don’t worry, she tells me. “It’s really really rare for any mistakes to happen,” she says. “These people are at the top of their craft. When things to happen, they’re little — a pulled muscle, a scrape there. But they know how to fall.”
I’m offering a special holiday prize package to a lucky reader of The Munro Review: a pair of tickets to the opening night performance of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” dinner for two at the Cosmopolitan Tavern (conveniently located in the convention center parking lot) and free theater parking. (Thanks again to Cosmopolitan and Broadway in Fresno for their generosity.)
To enter, leave a comment on this post answering this question: If you could have magical powers for just one day to perform any acrobatic circus act without having to worry about falling and killing yourself, what would it be?
Deadline to enter is 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 18. Winner selected at random. I’ll be notifying the winner on Monday afternoon so be sure to check your email. Please don’t enter if you won’t be able to attend.
“Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, and Wednesday, Dec. 20, Saroyan Theatre. Tickets are $29-$69.
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