Review: 'Cirque Dreams Holidaze' is a gift that keeps on giving

Correspondent

Yes, Christmas and Hanukkah are now part of the history of 2017. Kwanzaa has just begun, and New Year’s Eve is on the horizon. But before the holidays give way to 2018, the Broward Center is hosting one more way for everyone to savor the spirit of the season: “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.”

The glittering brainchild of Neil Goldberg, founder and artistic director of the Pompano Beach-based Cirque Dreams company, “Holidaze” is a family-friendly spectacular.

Part variety show, part circus and all about the razzle-dazzle, “Holidaze” is performed by an international cast of 30 (augmented by 11-year-old Miami dance sensation Diana Pombo, an impossibly flexible performer celebrated for her appearances on NBC’s “World of Dance”). Donning more than 300 costumes that range from the whimsical (gingerbread cookies, reindeer, toy soldiers, penguins) to the strikingly beautiful, the cast never retreats from the show’s high-energy pace.

In fact, “Holidaze” plays like a gift-wrapped (and very pretty) steamroller. The music includes originals by Jill Winters and David Scott, plus such familiar numbers as “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Winter Wonderland” and “O Holy Night.” It never lets up. Singers Micah Mims, Ariel Rose and Alexandra Doman are versatile and powerful.

Holiday ringmaster Frank Vomero jumps in and out of the action, and though he doesn’t utter a word, he makes the audience-participation number “Symphony of Bells” a real highlight of the show, his intentions and attitudes crystal clear thanks to his facial expressions and body language.

The athlete-artists are, of course, the heart of the show. And the ones in “Holidaze” are an impressive, varied bunch.

Take, for example, a playfully clever father-daughter act. Russian Sergei Korolev appears on stilts as an oversize puppeteer, holding the strings as his pink-bewigged daughter Alexandra Koroleva becomes a tumbling marionette.

In an act that is also whimsical but no less challenging, Ethiopians Ashenafi Kebebew and Bruke Tola appear as large and small gingerbread men, the man flipping and spinning the boy with his feet while achieving an always-changing but necessarily delicate balance.

Italy’s Emanuel Medini-Conte first appears as a muscular engineer on skates, twirling and whirling Portugal’s Evangelia Silva-Alves — a skating “caboose” — faster and faster. Later, he transforms into a soldier who walks on a dipping, swaying line (this “rope” is anything but tight) before switching to multiple flexible lines. It’s scary and more than a little amazing.

Chinese acrobat Lei Chen, dubbed the show’s ice man, does increasingly challenging feats of balance, punctuating each segment with a little head nod that seems to ask, “How do you like me now?”

As Mrs. Claus, Russian Irina Guseva seems at first to be not much more than a head-waggling, smiling circus clown. But then, she reclines, sticks her feet into the air and demonstrates some mad juggling skills.

Ukraine’s Sergy Chmara and Italy’s Mariachiara Scarabelli elevate the art of the quick change to dizzying heights, as they transform their costumes over and over in mere seconds.

The first “flyboys” are Jose Cuenca-Torres and Byron Malquin-Castillo of Ecuador. The muscular spiraling aerialists live up to the title of their performance, “Majestical.”

Romance comes in “2018,” performed by Ukranian Vlodomyr Osypov and his wife, Veronika Osypova. She balances, leaps and tumbles as he supports her in gravity-defying moves, courting disaster with breathtaking aplomb.

Portuguese aerialists Tiffanie Calderon-Jorge and Joao Ferreira Godinho help bring the performance to a stunning close. They amplify the beauty of “O Holy Night” by using white silks to fly over the stage and the first few rows of the audience, combining strength, intricate balance and graceful (sometimes heart-stopping) movement to portray the show’s flying angels.

And that’s only some of what “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” has to offer.

Katie Bruce’s lighting repeatedly transforms the sparkling Christmas tree that is the centerpiece of Jon Craine’s set, from the glowing green of a holiday at home to the icy cool of an outdoor winter wonderland (in Florida, use your imagination).

There are those who might say that some of “Holidaze,” a show in which a broad smile rarely leaves anyone’s face, is cheerful and sugary in the extreme. But let the Scrooges of the world stay home. Everyone else can enjoy a last blast of holiday happiness.

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze” runs through Dec. 30 in the Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., in Fort Lauderdale. Showtimes are 2 and 8 p.m. Wednesday; 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets cost $29.50-$69.50. To order, call 954-462-0222 or go to BrowardCenter.org.

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