By Lynne Menefee and Herb Merrick
Cirque du Soleil’s first-ever holiday production is based on “Account of A Visit from St. Nicholas” or, as it is more well-known, “The Night Before Christmas,” first published anonymously in 1823 in The Troy, New York Sentinel, and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore in 1837. Moore supposedly went shopping on a snowy winter’s day and wrote the poem for his children while riding on a sleigh. His inspiration for the character was his Dutch handyman and the portrayal of St. Nicholas by his friend, Washington Irving, author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
…the artists put everything into their performances and the audience was enthralled…
Based in Canada, Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group was founded in 1984 by street performers, Guy Laliberte and Gilles Ste-Croix, who had previously toured Quebec as stilt-walkers. Guy Caron, from the National Circus School, fashioned the productions into theatrical circus arts shows with strong characters and without the use of live animals. The organization expanded rapidly (including multimedia productions, immersive experiences, and special events) to dozens of shows performed to over 378 million people by over 4,000 artists of 80 nationalities.
In this version, the poem punctuates a more contemporary storyline about a young girl who has lost interest in the Christmas poem her father has read to her since she was a baby and has no interest in the low-tech gift of a new bike. She is all about her music and posting selfies on the internet. This lost connection with his daughter saddens the father. She is sent on a magical journey by a group of elf-like creatures as her father searches for her. The two eventually find each other again, both literally and figuratively, discovering a renewed joy in the season.
The 26 artists in this production are from Canada, Brazil, France, Taiwan, Portugal, Guinea, the USA, and Ukraine. They performed familiar circus acts we all loved as children including acrobatics (with a lot of slapstick), juggling, roller skating, hoop diving, diabolo (a Chinese-derived juggling or circus prop that consists of an axle and two cups or discs spun by a string), and many breathtaking aerial acts. The costumes and sets were colorful, sparkling, and created the mood for the season. The music was high energy, with an electronic spin on popular carols such as “Carol of the Bells” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” throughout. Perhaps the best moment was the slow and emotional aerial performance by the father. The prerecorded music was a little too loud and more quiet moments would have balanced the production. That said, the artists put everything into their performances and the audience was enthralled, especially the children, as everyone applauded enthusiastically after every act.
Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes with no intermission.
“Twas The Night Before…” runs through December 3, 2023 at The Hippodrome Theatre, 12 North Eutaw Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. For more information, and to purchase tickets, go online.