If you are looking for a Broadway show for the entire family, Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy, now playing a 10-week summer engagement, may be just the ticket. The evening is a colorful collection of musical numbers, where many of the talented acrobats and gymnasts dress up like animals from the jungle. Creator/director Neil Goldberg has spawned a jungle adventure themed musical, with songs by Jill Winters that have a driving disco beat to keep things lively. Although the outstanding routines, mostly acrobatic or aerial balancing acts are more than competent, the show lacks a needed spark of inventiveness.
Don’t be confused this troupe is not associated with the Montréal based giant Cirque du Soleil in any way, except maybe borrowing a page from their unique take on the circus/theater form. This troupe, Cirque Productions, is a South Florida touring company founded in 1993 that won a six year battle to use the word “cirque” in their name. Their creations have played in casinos, resorts and theme parks around the United States; in fact this particular Jungle Fantasy has been making its way across the U.S. for almost a year now before taking a bow on the Great White Way, where I’m not so sure it really belongs. But oh the tourists in summer and the children are out of school. What to do? Oh yes, two hours of Jungle Fantasy in air conditioned delight. And there are even cheap seats in the balcony for only $25.
With no apparent narrative through line, we follow an adorable adventurer (Marcello Balestracci) into the jungle where he meets his guide Mother Nature (Jill Diane). Mother Nature sings songs with generic new age lyrics like “Watch and you will see your inner self come to be. Nature will set you free.” A sculpted Adonis with long hair called Soultree (Jared Burnett) plays an electric violin madly while lurking in the trees. And we are ushered into the Jungle by Day, Jon Craine’s elaborate green setting features painted trees with thick vines. The beefcake acts of jugglers, contortionists, balancing aerialists and guys that spin themselves crazy inside large metal wheels will be paraded out in 150 garish spandex costumes created by Lenora Taylor and Santiago Rojo. The overall effect is chaotic repetitiveness, yet painless enough to please the summer tourists.
The second half, after a twenty minute intermission so the little ones can go to the restroom and get some candy, is Jungle by Night. The big difference is the day glow black light affect; otherwise there is little difference between day and night in this jungle.
While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Broadway elitists will cringe. There were, indeed, many happy campers, children and adults alike, who were having a good ole time. I’m willing to wager most of them have never seen the Montreal based Cirque du Soleil that had a multi-million dollar theater built just for them in Las Vegas.
By: Gordin & Christiano
Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy opened at the Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway at 53rd Street in New York. For tickets call 212-239-6200 or visit the theater box office.