Roller-skating in a zebra outfit. Flipping a man with your feet while dressed as a frog. Juggling six rings in a bee costume. These acts apparently aren't hard enough for the stars of Cirque Dreams. But performing them while cruising the high seas? Now, that's a challenge.
Such is the new endeavor for Neil Goldberg's Cirque Dreams, a Pompano Beach company that has catapulted near the top of circus shows in the past two decades.
Next month, the troupe will perform aboard Breakaway, a seven-day cruise out of New York. Its new show, "Cirque Dreams: Jungle Fantasy and Dinner," is a spinoff of the company's "Broadway Jungle Fantasy" show that debuted on Broadway in 2008 and now plays at Busch Gardens Tampa. Earlier this month, 16 performers and 14 staff and crew members flew to Germany to test the show on the ship, which is still under construction.
Unrelated to the Canadian act Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Dreams trains in an industrial park on Powerline Road. Its staff includes three talent scouts, a travel agent, choreographers and costume designers. In an upstairs meeting room and kitchen, a floor-to-ceiling TV screen allows the stars to review their moves up close.
The performers hail from overseas, particularly Spain, Germany, Italy and the Ukraine, and all started when they were very young, Goldberg said. He creates a concept for each act, putting the performers in costumes as his staff writes the music.
"They're not like us where they have gymnastics, then tennis, then dance," he said. "They start when they're 5 years old and do it every day and do it better than anyone else in the world. It's about achieving perfection."
Performers on the New York cruise include Russian Alexander Kulakov, who portrays a juggling bee; Australian Beau Sargent, playing a lizard hunter who operates a bow and arrow with his feet while doing a handstand; Argentinean brothers Roberto and Maximiliano Laurino, who lie feet-to-feet and propel each other in the air to perform flips; and Australians Jeronimo Garcia-Medina and Jessica Ritchie, as skating zebras.
This show will be in the round, with cruise patrons as close as five feet away, and the ship's staff will serve dinner during the show. Goldberg, who designed leopard-print and tropical-flower tablecloths to add to the mood, said Cirque Dreams has a deal with NCL through 2020. The current crop of performers have signed up for a six-month run, he said.
"We want to reinvent dinner theater," Goldberg said. "People think that it's something their parents used to go to, and bus groups came to. I'm trying to make it more youthful and edgier and sexier, because people love to eat and people love entertainment."
Goldberg, a former Broadway costume designer, created the company in 1993, calling it "the first American company combining the European cirque-style of performance artistry with American circus arts and Broadway theatrics."
Cirque Dreams has performed other shows here, mostly at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood. Long term, Goldberg would like to take the dinner-and-a-show concept worldwide, opening up to 12 dinner-theater restaurants in the next five years. He has a venue in South Florida lined up but can't announce it yet.
Besides, he has more pressing issues, such as figuring out how to put on a show when the seas are less than friendly.
"We have two versions of each act," he said. "One is when we go all out. The other is just in case the weather starts getting rough and the ship is rocking. You have to be prepared."
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