By Jessica Neu
The Cultural Trust’s Benedum Center comes alive this weekend with Las Vegas Production’s Holiday Dreams: A Spectacular Holiday Cirque! This high-energy holiday show combines stunning visual techniques such as holograms, lasers, and projection mapping with various entertainment genres, including singing, dancing, comedy, contortionism, and acrobatics. The result is a family-friendly thrill ride to cap off the holiday season. Nine performers bring this cirque-style show to life in Pittsburgh but do not acquiesce to any Vegas-sized thrills in its journey. Holiday Dreams delights audiences of all ages. My five-year-old exclaimed, “how did they do that?!” as often as he asks, “are we there yet” during a road trip.
Upon arrival, audience members are greeted with familiar Christmas music, creating a relaxed, party-like atmosphere. As the show begins, an Elf walks through the audience taking “elfies” using a landline phone receiver. This amusing sketch introduces us to the Elf, the silent narrator throughout the show. Never speaking more than a few words, the Elf delights through pantomime and physical comedy that falls somewhere between Charlie Chaplin and “Saturday Night Live.” Audiences are encouraged to cheer as loud as possible throughout the performance, reveling with applause in all of the Elf’s antics. He is engaging and masterfully renders awestruck audience participation.
In the first scene, the Elf opens a Christmas gift which unwraps the holiday magic that will continue for the next hour and twenty minutes. As the cirque performers begin to take the stage in mesmerizing stunts and skills, we are reminded that it is not the physical gift that matters but rather what the recipient does with it. Herein lies the true magic of this show: it is a reminder that using the simplest of toys in an imaginative way, paired with practice, fortitude, and bravery, can lead to extraordinary outcomes. These nine performers defy physics, gravity, physiology, and strength using ladders, rope, hula hoops, trampolines, bicycles, and more. Each routine, including aerialists, stunts, and acrobats, is more daring than the last. Audiences are left holding their breath in suspense, wondering if the performer will execute each trick. Even the few blunders that seemingly happened were downplayed with humor and physical comedy, so we are never really sure if it was intentional. This professionalism adds to the show’s magic, but it is different magic from the traditional holiday musical or play. The magic brought by this cirque is one of laughter and wonderment that is derived from the simplest of objects manipulated in the most extraordinary ways. In today’s fast-paced, technologically driven world, to see an entire audience delighted by the anticipation of the Elf executing a sketch of sophisticated block stacking conjures a sense of childhood nostalgia with holiday magic.
With masterful bodily control and strength, the cast of Holiday Dreams: A Spectacular Holiday Cirque! reminds us that through play and practice, anything is possible, even if it defies the laws of physics…just don’t look down.
There is one remaining performance of Holiday Dreams: A Spectacular Holiday Cirque! today, Friday the 30th at 2pm https://trustarts.org/production/83344/holiday-dreams
My husband and I took 2 of our grand children and we were very disappointed in the show. Most of the acts were of the quality one might expect in a much less expensive show. Many of the acts portrayed in the advertising with multiple aerialists simply did not happen in the performance we went to. NOT WORTH IT!