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A CurtainUp Review
Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy

Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy
A scene from Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy
A bright green turtle earns a laugh as it makes its way slowly but determinedly from the wings to the other side of the stage. There is no hurry as our eyes need time to take in the dense and very green jungle foliage framed by a pair of massive twisted tree trunks, the work of scenic designer Jon Craine. I won't give away the amusing prologue that sets the stage that soon welcomes exotic flying birds, strutting giraffes, fluttering butterflies, crawling caterpillars and growling and prowling tigers unlike any you have seen before. There is magic in the air. These creatures have all been artistically re-imagined by a mother nature with a flair for the fabulous. But more importantly they are an extraordinarily gifted company of circus performers of international fame and repute.

This spectacularly costumed, cleverly conceived and splendidly executed family-friendly circus-styled entertainment has found a home for the next 8 weeks on Broadway. Designed as a touring show, it is sure to please as many tourists as it will regular theatergoers willing to temporarily suspend their need for more sophisticated diversions during the hot summer months ahead.

Although there are some similarities to the Cirque du Soleil's fantastical style of presentation, this show can stand on its own distinctive merits. Here is a terrifically varied array of circus acts performed with skill and bravado. No need for real animals, as the company of 28 artists that include aerialists, acrobats, contortionists, jugglers, tumblers, dancers, musicians and singers are consigned for transmogrification into the animal and insect kingdoms through the artistry of costume designers Lenora Taylor and Santiago Rojo.

Creator-director Neil Goldberg hasn't necessarily devised a plot, but there is a through-line in which a young adventurer (Marcello Balestracci) is whisked into a dream-like jungle and gradually becomes an exceedingly eager and participant in the various disciplines he sees being performed. This adds an amusing touch to many of the acts. Among the more astounding is Ruslan Dmytruk, who appears to be the most talented frog of them all as he bounces a dozen or more balls while standing on a toad stool surrounded by a bevy of croakers. A quartet of slithering lizards become intricately entwined in huge hoops, and a pair of romantically inclined butterflies with beautifully hued wings (Sergey Parshin and Naomi Sampson) soar in breathtaking configurations.

Day becomes night in Act II, as the costumes take on a phosphorescent glow under the lighting artistry of Kate Johnston. Bumble bees, flowers and plants become a part of the choreographed pageantry (by Tara Jeanne Valee). Vladimir Dovgan and Anatoliy Yeniy prove that giraffes are quite the experts on the teeter board and six muscular tigers do some astounding balancing. Of questionable artistic merit is the strident singing by Jill Diane of some rather icky songs by Jill Winters. And a somewhat overcommitted violinist (Jared Burnett) screeches away in Slavic style apparently unable to unnerve or distract any of the brilliant artists.

Apparently a law suit initiated by Canadian-based Cirque du Soleil to restrain Cirque Productions from using Cirque in their title failed. The court deemed the word cirque was generic. Because there is insufficient rake in the orchestra floor, it will be difficult for small children to see. Bring along a cushion or get seats in the mezzanine. Otherwise, there is nothing that could be called generic about this delightful and dazzling show.

Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy
  Created and Directed by Neil Goldberg
  Music & Lyrics by Jill Winter
Cast: Uranmandakh Amarsanaa (Mongolia) Contorting Lizard. Aerial Bird; Marcello Balestracci (Usa) Adventurer; Jared Burnett (Usa) Soultree Violinist; Zachary Carroll (Usa) Jungleboy; Jill Diane (Usa) Mother Nature; Lauren Diblasi (Usa) Bee, Ensemble; Ruslan Dmytruk (Ukraine) Frog Juggler; Iryna Dmytruk (Ukraine) Bee, Ensemble; Ivan Dotsenko (Ukraine) Trapeze Owl; Vladimir Dovgan (Ukraine) Balancing Giraffe, Snake Roller; Nataliya Egorova (Russia) Monkey Foot Manipulator; Judah Frank (Usa) Unicorn. Ensemble; Buyankhish1g Ganbaatar (Mongolia) Contorting Lizard. Aerial Bird; Erdenesuvd Ganbaatar (Mongolia) Contorting Lizard, Aerial Bird; Stefka 1ordanova (Bulgaria) Blackbird Hairialist; Denys Kucher (Ukraine) Vine Swinger; Vitalii Lykov (Ukraine) Vine Swinger; Lee Miller (Usa) Percushroomist; Odgerel Oyunbaatar (Mongolia) Contorting Lizard, Aerial Bird; Sergey Parshin (Russia) Butterflyer, Jungle King; Pavel Pozdnyakov (Russia) Jungle King, Ensemble; Glenn Rogers (Usa) Jungleboy; Naomi Sampson (Usa) Butterflyer, Ensemble; Konstantin Serov (Russia) Emu, Ensemble; Carly Sheridan (Canada) Trapeze Owl; Serguei Slavski (Russia) Jungle King. Monkey Manipulator; Alexander Tolstikov (Russia) Jungle King, Monkey Manipulator; Anatoliy Yeniy (Moldova) Balancing Giraffe;

Costume Design: Lenora Taylor & Santiago Rojo
  Additional Music: David Scott, Keith Heffner, Billy Paul Williams, Tony Aliperti, Lance Conque, Christopher Pati
  Act Design: Neil Goldbert, Heather Hoffman, Iouri Klepatsky
  Scenic Design: John Craine
  Lighting Design: Kate Johnson
  Sound Design: Craig Cassidy
  Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
  Broadway Theater, 1681 Broadway (212) 239 – 6200
 Tickets ($25 - $95)
  From 6/16/08; closing 8/24/08; opening 6/26/08 Opened: 06/ 26/08; ends limited run 08/24/08
  Performances: Mondays at 8 PM; Tuesdays at 7 PM; Thursday and Friday at 8 PM; Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM and 7 PM.
  Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 06/24/08
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