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"Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy" comes to Broward Center

Staff Writer

It’s a jungle in there.

At least, that’s the hope of “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy,” coming to Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center for the Performing Arts July 22-27.

Pompano Beach-based Cirque Dreams opened the show of aerialists, contortionists, acrobats, jugglers and musicians on Broadway in 2008 to positive reviews.

“ ‘Jungle Fantasy’ is really what put us on the map,” says Neil Goldberg, founder and artistic director of Cirque Dreams and the creator of this show. “I wanted to find a template, a place that felt relatable in the imaginations of adults and kids and basically everyone. Out of space and underwater out to sea, all that stuff’s been done. I drew on the similarities of [the circus performers’] physicality and agility … to the jungle, things as a kid I would dream of exploring or reading in a storybook. I saw that frogs and grasshoppers could easily be jugglers. Lizards and snakes could be contortionists. Birds and owls could be aerialists. It just evolved.”

The contemporary circus got a big boost in 2010, when ’80s pop princess Debbie Gibson took over the lead role of Mother Nature after the show moved to the MGM Grand Theatre in Foxwoods, Conn.

The show was later performed in Tampa’s Busch Gardens and on Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Breakaway. It also toured United States Armed Forces bases. After the Broward Center, the show will move on to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

“This show, ‘Jungle Fantasy,’  has the greatest legs ever,” musical director Jill Winters says. “It will not go away, because people keep bringing it back, because the people love it. And it keeps evolving with new music for new acts and new ideas we have. It has new life every single time it goes out.”

Winters, who sang backup for Dionne Warwick and Chuck Jackson before scoring a Top 30 dance hit in 2001 titled “No Returns” and released under the name Jill Diane,  played Mother Nature during the Broadway run.

“It was one of the most exciting gigs I’ve ever had in my life, to stand on a Broadway stage in a show that you have completely composed and be the solo singer as Mother Nature, a character we all got to create together,” Winters says. “My parents were in the fifth row. Mother Nature starts the show backward and then turns to the audience. The first face I saw was my mother’s, tears streaming down her eyes.”

She says she worked out often in order to pull off the extravagant, Alexander McQueen-inspired costume, which exposed her midriff.

“He’s one of my favorite designers,” head costume designer Lenora Taylor says of McQueen. “I love to work in things from fashion magazines. I get inspired by [McQueen] and Bob Mackie. I look at Mackie’s old Cher costumes for inspiration, just because they are so spectacular.”

Taylor also has to keep in mind that the costumes can’t inhibit the movement of the performers and can’t be slippery. “Like, the hands and feet on the ‘frogs’ are all on the ground at the same time, so we have rubber grips on the bottoms of the feet and hands,” Taylor says. “Everything is basically stretchy. But the circus loves things to be sparkly, so we have millions of Swarovski crystals, rhinestones and ironed-on dots, paillettes. And in others, we sew on crystals on top of layers of sparkly fabric and sparkly dots and add rhinestones on top of that. We check it in the mirror, and if it’s not enough, then we sew on sequins.”

The music also has that show-bizzy sheen, Winters says.

“I think because of the name, ‘Jungle Fantasy,” sometimes [the audience] get caught up with it being drum-heavy,” she explains. “But it’s a Broadway show, so it needs Broadway music. It needs variety and [to] still stay with the theme of ‘Jungle Fantasy.’”


Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy

When: July 22-27; 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 6:30 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. matinee Saturday; 1 p.m. matinee Sunday

Where: Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale

Cost: $34.50-$74.50

Contact: 954-462-0222 or

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