Viva Noel: A Holiday Cirque opened on November 29th at Mystic Lake Casino. Conceived by Q Production and directed by Fernando Quevedo, promotional copy explains that its a celebration of the holiday spirit. Perhaps. But as a celebration, it’s all over the map and the experience is more like watching a taping for a Spanish(?), Italian(?), French(?), Las Vegas(?) reality show. There’s some amazing talent represented (and without safety nets), but the sum of the individual cool parts doesn’t add up to a holiday-tradition whole.
The confusion begins in the title. “Viva” (Spanish for ‘alive’—a loose translation), Noël (French for Christmas) with “Cirque” (French for ‘circus’). Thematic confusion continues with the opening of the show as a nonsense speaking (although sprinkled with Spanish and English slang) clown bounces slapstick-ish comedy back and forth from the audience with two performers on stage: a Jester (Italian?) and a Toy Soldier. The exchange is nonsense but encourages some giggles from the audience and a few clumsy moments of applause. Awkward applause continues throughout the performance as act-endings are often abrupt and unclear.
The clown acts as the emcee, appearing throughout the performance and encouraging audience participation and show breaks as the acrobatic equipment is set up behind screens. There’s also a Father Christmas type emcee who doubles as a soloist (a strong singer I might add), but also is a bit freaky and dictator-like with his commanding voice and swooping robed arm.
Once the performers get rolling (literally, on occasion), the audience is treated to acts including some seen on “America’s Got Talent” (per the Facebook page for Q Productions). The aerialists, jugglers and dancers, although strong and colorful in their own right, transition clumsily from act to act, sometimes being in Christmas costume, sometimes in day-glo tights. An albeit graceful acrobatic rope duo performs a not-so-romantic (at least being pulled up 20′ by neck muscles isn’t’ my definition of romance) act to “Get Here (if you can)” by Oleta Adam. There are frisky, high-kicking, dancing santa-helpers in the obligatory short red, fur-trimmed outfits. And there’s a rather lengthy sing-along as Father Christmas explains that it’s easy to create a memorable Christmas carol by matching a traditional Christmas song with a rock-n-roll standard. Not sure we were convinced after a series of carols mashing Devo with “Jingle Bell Rock” and The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” with “Last Christmas (I Gave You My Heart).”
A few more notable acts include robotic dancers, a motorcycle/scooter duo with “death defying” audience participation while revving around a globe cage, and three bouncing guys whose rhythmic trampoline to wall antics were a hoot! A pair of Gauchos (Argentinian cowboys) also perform a visually captivating show of whizzing boleadoras (primitive hunting weapons made up of balls on thongs). Yup! there were some good jokes made with those.
In a nutshell (pun intended), the show may be disjointed, but clearly the audience—from our neighbor the 80+ year old grandma to the 4 year old little boy—was entertained overall for close to 2 hours. Many audience members also enjoyed meeting the perfomers who lined up to greet us as we exited. Although I can’t recommend this $28-$36 ticket as a must-see for the holiday season, the production group, known for its special corporate-sponsored events and some Las Vegas shows, does put out some “wow'”moments. If you like the current trend of talent shows on television, this could be a show for you. If you’re looking for a more ethereal and elegant Cirque du Soleil-type experience, skip it.
CORRECTION 12/7: Thanks to commenter Bonnie Poyer, who corrected the song information: it’s “Get Here (if you can)” by Oleta Adam and not, as we originally wrote, Anita Baker’s “You Can Reach Me.”