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Not your grandfather’s circus

Alex Miller
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyThere isn't an ounce of fat in the entire cast of Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, and if you've ever wondered just how far the human spine can bend, this is the place to find out. The show runs through Sunday at the Denver Center.
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DENVER, Colorado “”Am I dreaming?”

That was our 6-year-old Thursday night during the performance of “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy,” a live circus show that is to a traditional circus what a Ferrari is to a Buick.

Built to live within the confines of a proscenium stage instead of the big top, the “Cirque Dreams” show is in Denver only through the weekend in the Buell Theater – and it’s well worth making the trip down. It’s not easy finding live entertainment that both kids and adults can enjoy, and if the kids in question are past the Barney-and-Elmo phase, “Cirque Dreams” offers a more mature, wondrous experience.

If you’ve ever seen a Cirque du Soleil show, you’ll know roughly what to expect (the two companies, by the way, were embroiled in a lengthy legal battle over the use of the word “cirque” – French for “circus.” This company, Cirque Productions, won.) In fact, the easiest way to describe this show would be “Cirque du Soleil meets “The Lion King.” Elaborate, wildly creative costumes generously fitted with Day-Glo material help turn people into everything from emus and lizards to trees and frogs. Set against a phantasmagorical background of gnarled trees and giant mushrooms, the players blend in as moving scenery to great effect.

Fresh as it is, “Cirque Dreams” still relies on some of the oldest circus trick in the book. We’re still seeing jugglers, gymnasts and clowns, but the rendering of it all is so unusual and executed so well that it’s hard even to compare it. The fact that the soundtrack is accompanied by a live singer (a ladybug, in fact) and a sort of psychedelic pharaoh sawing away on an electric violin adds another layer to a production that already has more tiers than a wedding cake.

And it’s fun and funny in places, with the cast eliciting plenty of giggles from the kids in the audience. It helps to break the ice with humor, since much of the performance falls into the realm of the seemingly impossible. There’s one bit featuring a quartet of women dressed as chameleons doing things with their bodies that seemed to defy the basics of human anatomy. Jugglers make things spin that don’t look at all spinnable, and the super-ripped guys and catlike women do it all with remarkable aplomb and smiles – even as they’re dressed in the most outrageous costumes.

There’s more eye-popping gymnastic feats in this show than your typical summer Olympics, but it’s compressed into a show that’s about two hours – the upper limit, we figure, for most kids’ patience.

Our little guy walked out of the intermission thinking he’d just seen “the best thing ever.” When we told him there was still another whole part of the show to come, he just looked up and said “Wow!”

Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2920, or amiller@vaildaily.com.


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