Wednesday, July 02, 2008

New Review: Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy

For New York Press. Here's a tease, with my usual (and arguably annoying) habit of stretching the lede to two paragraphs (not every critic is perfect, you know):

In its marketing materials, Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy takes pains to position itself as “family” entertainment. Given that the setting for the show, designed by Jon Craine, resembles nothing so much as a woodcut by M.C. Escher, and given the seemingly inexhaustible menagerie of plumed, tufted, horned and tailed creatures that amble about—including turtles, ostriches, unicorns, cows, bees, frogs, zebras, giraffes, butterflies, peacocks, invertebrates, bacterium, jellyfish and amoeba—the moniker would appear on target. One almost expects the show, with its 150 or so costumes, to be given a hearty thumbs-up by the Children’s Television Workshop, the organization that created Sesame Street.

But the real allure and reputation of the Florida-based Cirque (which isn’t to be confused with Cirque du Soleil, the Canadian mega-brand) isn’t its celebration of every living creature Noah stowed on the ark. It’s about gravity-defying aerialists, bruise-resistant tumblers, a few impossibly limber contortionists and supremely dexterous jugglers—the European style of presentational circus that values the showmanship of human beings over the displaying and training of animals and all the attendant horror stories. And, apparently, it’s about presenting perhaps the most homoerotic show I’ve ever seen on Broadway.

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