Theater Reviews

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WaMu Theater, New York
Through Jan. 6

The seemingly unstoppable Cirque du Soleil enters the family entertainment arena with a new production that clearly is aiming to be a New York holiday perennial on a par with Radio City's Christmas show.

Unfortunately, "Wintuk," housed in the WaMu Theater underneath Madison Square Garden, doesn't match the artistic level of the many other Cirque productions seen here. Of course, that shouldn't stop it from being a must-see for family audiences during the holiday season.

There are several factors inhibiting the production's effectiveness. One is the venue itself, which is claustrophobically low-ceilinged. While the dramatic width of the stage does provide the opportunity for thrilling bicycle and roller-skating stunts, the effectiveness of the aerialand wire acts -- seemingly performed a mere few feet above the ground -- is seriously hampered.

Another problem is the production's lame thematic concept, which centers on a young boy's desire to experience a snowfall. Anyone who has seen these sorts of shows before will have no problem guessing whether he gets his wish, and those sitting in the front sections are advised to dress accordingly.

The show -- set in a vague urban setting for the first act and an arctic wilderness in the second -- features a series of circus acts involving the usual disciplines of juggling, balancing, acrobatics, wire walking, hoop twirling, etc. As usual with Cirque, they are gussied up with a highly theatrical presentation and a nonstop musical score.

But here, the overall quality of the acts seems less impressive than usual, and the theatrical accouterments surrounding them -- including talking lampposts, giant-size puppets, etc. -- are neither particularly lavish nor creative. An example of the paucity of imagination is the preshow intro, which basically consists of a masked burglar type running into the crowd and stealing somebody's popcorn.

Shortly before the show's conclusion, the impatient young central character comments to the multitude of performers surrounding him: "You're awesome. But it's time for a flurry."

I knew just how he felt.

WINTUK
Presented by Cirque du Soleil, MSG Entertainment and Base Entertainment
Credits:
Director-writer: Richard Blackburn
Director of creation: Fernand Rainville
Set/props designer: Patricia Ruel
Costume designer: Francois Barbeau
Music: Simon Carpentier
Lyrics: Jim Corcoran
Choregrapher: Catherine Archambault
Lighting designer: Yves Aucoin
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