Guest Columns

HUDSON: DCPA OFFERS ENGAGING ENTERTAINMENT

Chamber Cirque and a few romantic meals

TRACES by 7 Fingers through May 14 at the Stage Theater at the DCPA, and FIVE COURSE LOVE, A Lip Smacking Musical Comedy, by Gregg Coffin through June 19 at the Garner Galleria Theater.

The Denver Center Theater Company has stepped outside its traditional role as a purveyor of scripts in favor of a high-energy circus entertainment featuring seven former members of CIRQUE DU SOLEIL companies.

While the show retains several of the signature CIRQUE characteristics — moody techno music, sporadic poetry recitals and Chinese acrobatics — it eschews the high wire flamboyance (I wonder whether their choreographers couldn’t fix SPIDERMAN?) of CIRQUE’s Las Vegas productions for a more intimate exhibition of gymnastic prowess.

A lone female, the hyper-fit Valerie Benoit-Charbonneau, is accompanied by a half dozen male performers who provide one “I can’t believe they can do that” moment after another. This is theater as pure, unadulterated entertainment. Seven street youths, who are introduced to the audience through a wisecracking sequence of self-description, then move the audience along with them in a revealing display of talent that sheds light on both their motivations and dedication to their art. At half the Vegas price, I can’t imagine anyone who won’t find this 90-minute performance worth every penny.

Interestingly, these performers are all graduates of the Canadian National Circus School in Montreal. Yes, that’s right, the Quebec Provincial government offers college degrees through its Ministry of Education at a school subsidized with tax dollars to train circus performers. I’m sure my friends in the TEA Party would demand to know where in the U. S. Constitution is there authority for such an expense. While I am hard put to answer them, it is worthwhile to examine the economic success of this imaginative investment in public education. Since 1984, when Guy Laliberté founded CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, his company has grown from 37 to more than 4,000 employees including a thousand performers.

A quick check of the Internet finds that 22 productions (different shows) are currently playing in 38 countries at more than fifty venues. A hundred million seats have been sold by CIRQUE and Laliberté has made Fortune magazine’s list of the 500 wealthiest people on the planet. Not only has he paid plenty in Canadian taxes, but he also dropped $25 million to travel to the Russian space station for a few weeks of space tourism. Together with the 7 Fingers troupe performing in Denver, a half dozen new circus companies have been spun off the success of CIRQUE DU SOLEIL. Now John Boehner and Mitch McConnell may be right that ‘investment’ is just a Latin word for ‘expenditure,’ but either way, this one appears to have paid off.

The new show at the Garner Galleria Theatre arrived a few days late for Valentine’s, but if you are still looking for a romantic evening’s entertainment this may be just your meal. FIVE COURSE LOVE is played by three actors, appearing in fifteen different roles, as their characters search for that special connection during dates at five different restaurants. There is a Texas BBQ house, an Italian Trattoria frequented by the mob, a German then a Mexican eatery, and finally, an all-American diner. Daniel Langhoff and Sarah Rex bring terrific voices to their role as the ‘boy meets girl’ pairings. Jordan Leigh provides comic relief alternately as the waiter, proprietor or additional customer.

It’s silly fun that is only that much better if you join in and have a libation or two yourself. The live band is spot on with their musical renditions of Goffin’s tunes. And, there will be time left over for a quiet drink at that romantic place you find special!

Miller Hudson is a drama critic in addition to all his political talents.