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Cirque Dreams ‘Holidaze’ ready to razzle-dazzle Chicago

BY TRICIA DESPRES | FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

The morning is well on its way to ending as Cirque Dreams mastermind Neil Goldberg looks up from his endless list of show reports from the night before. With multiple productions touring simultaneously, these crucial reports give the self-proclaimed perfectionist a keen eye into everything going on with his shows, from costume challenges to under-the-weather cast members.

And yes, he’s stressed.

‘CIRQUE DREAMS HOLIDAZE’

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17-19; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20; 2 p.m. Dec. 21

Where: Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State

Tickets: $25-$75

Info: thechicagotheatre.com

“I think stress is just in the fiber of my being,” explains Goldberg, who essentially will design, rehearse and produce every component of the five shows he currently has touring the country as part of his Cirque Dreams production company. “I don’t think I would know any other way to function. I have been fortunate that my internal stress has found a way to manifest itself within my own personal passion and creativity. The more stress I have, the more driven I am to create, and the more I create, the more the results are beneficial to the ultimate goal.”

That goal of providing audiences across the country with an extraordinary theatrical experience has creatively driven the Cirque Dreams founder and renowned Broadway director since first opening his production company with a staff of three just over 21 years ago. Now calling “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” his “most elaborate production to date,” with 300 costumes, 20 acts and 30 artists from every corner of the globe, Goldberg says all the work is worth it when he gets to see the audiences delighted faces.

“Once the show is created, I want to be sure that every audience in every city enjoys the full experience,” explains Goldberg. “I feel like I let someone down if I can’t make sure that happens.”

Bringing the production of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” to Chicago for the first time Dec. 17-21 at the Chicago Theatre is a dream come true for Goldberg.

“Chicago is a big city, so we wanted to make sure we were ready,” says Goldberg, whose productions of “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy” and “Cirque Dreams Illumination” has played the Chicago market in the past. “Like everything else, we make sure to test things in small markets and perfect everything. We always want to make sure that we have dotted all of the I’s and left no creative stone unturned. We have done that and that’s why we are finally here.”

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze” promises to be a visual and sensory masterpiece living up to the Cirque tradition. “It’s really not about the acrobats and the gymnasts,” explains Goldberg. “It’s really about the way those acrobats and gymnasts will portray the things we remember about the holiday season. There will be angels flying and gingerbread cookies flipping and ribbons and boxes flying through the air, all doing so to truly celebrate the most wonderful time of the year.”

The Broadway–esque production has its share of momentous moments, including the end of Act I. “We tell the story of gingerbread cookies and a gingerbread house,” says Goldberg, who will bring the production to New York for the first time in 2015. “There are candy canes and frosting and the house and all of a sudden a 20-foot gingerbread cookie rises.”

And when that happens, Goldberg says he can often be found in the very back of the theater watching the surprised looks on the faces of adults and kids alike. “If I could translate body language, I would have to say that everyone is asking ‘what just happened?’ at that point. I love that moment. Today, you can see anything on a screen. This, before your own eyes on a stage, is magical.”

Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.