Growing up, my parents took me to see the Nutcracker every holiday season. The dancers didn't sing or smile and I had to sit still and wear something wool. Now I'm a parent, and I hate the ballet. But I found a show that even my teenage stepson can look forward to each year.
Cirque Dreams Holidaze combines astonishing acrobatics, flamboyant costumes and modernized Christmas carols. The artists flip each other into the air, swing from the ceiling and contort themselves into impossible poses. Every move is a feat of strength, coordination and flexibility.
I tried to follow my parents' example of how one ought to behave at the theater, but it's impossible to watch without gasping, cheering, or simply staring with your mouth open. It feels like the show might burst off the stage and into the audience at any moment. My 16-year-old and I laughed and clapped, and the drunk lady next to us kept screaming "Whooohooo!"
Holidaze is wild and fun, but doesn't have the controlled perfection I expect from a Cirque du Soleil production. Instead of a stripped-down set and couture costumes, the stage is crowded with gigantic gifts, a shimmering scaffold of a tree and towering toy soldiers. The costumes are more gaudy than glamorous. And the ensemble routines have the chaotic energy of a party popper shooting confetti. Some of the production elements are goofy enough to be distracting. I caught myself watching wobbly candy canes or stiff gingerbread men shuffling across the stage when there was a guy balancing another guy upside down on top of his head.
There is not a live orchestra for the performance, but the two female "narrators" sing with powerful clarity and spirit.
The most memorable part of the show was definitely the quick-change artists. It was unbelievable. Each change happened in a flash -- once during a shower of silver confetti -- and I never caught the tiniest glimpse of how they did it! My stepson and I screamed just like the drunk lady.
When it was time for the curtain call, he was one of the first people to get up to give the cast a standing ovation. I knew my parents would applaud. And my thoughts jumped ahead to next year.
Last thing... if you've ever wondered whether those people in the audience who get pulled up on stage know they are going to be part of the show, I can now personally report that they do not. So try to stay in your seat and be ready for anything. You may just start a new tradition.
For ticket information, click here: http://www.denvercenter.org/buy-tickets/shows/cirque-dreams-holidaze/about.aspx
Mobile users can watch a video preview here: http://youtu.be/YdaUKD2mDoQ