Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular
Bob Bernhardt, conductor
Cirque Musica, guest artists
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2016 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Photo courtesy Cirque Musica.
The use of dancers and other entertainment being performed on stage with a live orchestra is not new of course, but a performance by persons most often seen at the circus, that is a little newer. Such is the case of Cirque Musica, a troupe of talented trapeze artists, aerialists and acrobats who synchronize their routines to live orchestral music. While Cirque Musica, led by Executive Director Steve Cook, certainly has some similarities to the famous Cirque du Soleil, they have done well to stand on their own and continue to make audiences wide-eyed and anxious for more.
The evening began with Leroy Anderson’s brass heavy A Christmas Festival, which served as prelude to Cirque Musica parading on stage to the strains of It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. As more and more performers entered, some gave a little taste of what was to come, but after a while, there were so many people on stage, each doing their snippet of their specialty, that it became jumbled and messy.
The performances started with Smetana’s Dance of the Comedians from The Bartered Bride, by a gentleman who balanced himself on cylinders, increasing the danger threefold toward the end. We are then shown physics in action with a performer who became the center of a large hula-hoop. We are all familiar with the strong man and his feats of strength, but Cirque Musica took it a step further as two gentlemen enthralled the audience with a stunning balance/acrobatic set to Pachelbel’s Canon in D, brilliantly played by our Louisville Orchestra.
The rest of Act One featured a lovely rendition of Adolphe Adam’s O Holy Night, while Cirque performer Ashley Winn twirled and twisted above the stage in a hoop. In a “did he really do that?” moment, the audience watched as a Christmas tree (among other things) was balanced on a man’s chin while music from The Polar Express was played. Lastly we watch a trapeze duo defying gravity and giving new meaning to closeness high above the stage while Schubert’s Ave Maria serenaded and soothed.
In true Bob Bernhardt form, our dear Maestro began the second act with music from his favorite composer, John Williams, and his Flight to Neverland, from the soundtrack to the movie Hook. As is his nature, Mr. Bernhardt introduced this piece with a groan worthy joke.
With pieces like the Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker (beautiful accentuation by harpist Mary Rapier), Carol of the Bells, Wizards of Winter, and Winter Winterland, the performances were heavily influenced in gymnastics and the use of more hoops. This is not to say that I was not impressed by the athleticism and abilities of the performers, I just found the routines tedious and repetitive.
A little bit of breadth was added to the show when solo violinist Veronica Gan was attached with wires and hoisted above the stage while holding her violin and performing Silent Night. A nice effect, but I feel it didn’t rise to the occasion (no pun intended).
Just when you were lulled into the dulcet tones of the solo violin our “ringmaster” comes out and tells us of the next act, perhaps the most dangerous of the evening. Set to O’Neill and Kinkel’s Christmas Eve/Sarajevo, and Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, the audience is awed by the performance of a trio of athletes using the Russian Bar. If you have not seen this done before, go on You Tube and see for yourself. Truly spectacular.
The evening wrapped up with Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, complete with slapping straps (way to go percussion!), while the performers made their way to the stage for their bows.
To be honest, I was not as entertained by this troupe as I was with Cirque de la Symphonie in 2014. This group seemed to suffer from stage fright at times and the acts, as I mentioned before, seemed repetitive and un-inspired. Again, I admire and am in awe of the performers’ abilities, I just wish the show, as a whole, grabbed my enthusiasm a bit more.
I applaud the Orchestra for not getting distracted by the busy stage around them, and staying true to the Maestro’s baton.
Thank you to our hometown troupe, CirqueLouis for the enthralling entertainment around the Kentucky Center lobby. From silks to stilts, they are a treasure to the Louisville community.
Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular
November 26, 2016
Whitney Hall, The Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.