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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