REVIEW: Cirque Dreams Illumination (Broadway in Chicago)

A bit long on the illusion and merriment



Broadway in Chicago presents
Cirque Dreams Illumination
Created and directed by Neil Goldberg
Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe (map)
through June 6th  |  tickets: $25-$75   |  more info

reviewed by Katy Walsh

Hand BalancerScale down Hephaestus, gather a few Billy Elliot dancers, add in some Fuerza Bruta illusion, sprinkle with Second City comedy, and set it in a Red Line subway stop, and you’ll have Broadway in Chicago’s Cirque Dreams Illumination. The touring show  has a limited one-week engagement at Bank of America Theatre. Cirque Dreams Illumination is circus acts strung together by a reporter singing about the daily occurrences of the commute. Electricians, bellhops, military personnel mingle in with traffic cones and headless businessmen to create a visual spectacle. By ground or air, Cirque Dreams..  uses acrobatic dancing and stunts to illustrate how to make a city’s transit system more entertaining. Even without the traditional physical division inspired by the Big Top, Cirque Dreams creates a three-ring circus frenzy throughout the show. These standout chaotic moments showcase the main act and surround it with secondary simultaneous activity. When the action goes solo, primarily in Act 2, the pacing becomes sluggish with a one-trick-pony dissatisfaction. Cirque Dreams Illumination is at its best as death-defying burlesque incarnate resurrected out of the tumultuous pedestrian.

Among the initial crazed commuters and paparazzi dealing with electrical outages, an elegant waltzing couple have a wardrobe change…several times… on stage… within seconds. It’s ‘how did they do that…again and again?’ magic. An electrician walks his wire. A marine climbs a pyramid of chairs. A street performer break dances with disjointed twists. An aerial dancer dangles from her foot while suspending three other performers. The circus acts are entertainment. They are spliced together with song, sax, and sass creating prolonged transitions. Although Janine Ayn Romano (reporter) has a powerful singing voice, its robust cadence doesn’t quite fit with the circus or commuting theme. Marybeth Kern Martin Lamberti 1(saxophonist) easily could be relocated in the Chicago subway system as musical accompaniment to the rush hour. There and here it’s a jazzy background that puts a little merriment in the movement. Acting as an onstage director, Martin Lamberti (Vaudevillian) is a clown communicating through whistles. He leads a hilarious audience interactive scene in comedic mime, though the bit is a bit too long. He definitely knows how to get the funny out of a gag but smaller morsels could avoid the audience’s gag reflex.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages may I direct your attention to feats that will amaze and shock you…’ Creator and director Neil Goldberg combines magic and stunts for an urban fantasy commute. The illusions and dangerous elements are present. The challenge is to human cannonball the action to leave the audience breathless. As the ringmaster, Goldberg needs to tighten the reins to keep the pace worthy of the anticipated circus introduction.

Rating: ★★½


Running Time: Two hours includes a twenty minute intermission

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Theatre Building Chicago changes name – now Stage 773



Brian Posen, Artistic Director of STAGE 773 (formerly known as Lukaba Productions), has announced that the sale of the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, was completed at the end of May, and Stage 773 is now the primary tenant of the 3-theatre venue.

“We are honored to be entrusted with the future of this building, which holds such an important place in the Chicago arts community,” said STAGE 773 board chair Laura Michaud.  “We look forward to continuing and building upon Theatre Building Chicago’s tradition of providing support as well as space for Chicago’s performing artists.” 

The company formerly known as Lukaba Productions also officially announced it has changed its name to STAGE 773.  “The name STAGE 773 better expresses our company’s mission to celebrate the richness, creativity, innovation and spirit of Chicago’s off-loop theatre movement,” explained Brian Posen. 

The company will remain under the creative direction of Posen, who also teaches at the Second City Training Center (Program Head) and Columbia College. Posen has an extensive career in Chicago theatre as an actor, director, teacher and producer.  He is also the creator of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, the world’s largest sketch comedy festival, which will be celebrating its 10th year in January 2011 at STAGE 773.

About STAGE 773       

STAGE 773 acts to embody the vibrant spirit of Chicago off-loop theatre by:

  • celebrating the creative process, supporting the work of actors, directors, writers, composers and designers;
  • nurturing the artist, offering material, technical, organizational and emotional support;
  • honoring the audience, presenting accessible, affordable, exceptional entertainment.


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