Acrobats, contortionists and musicians in elaborate costumes will transform Rudder Auditorium into a lively jungle for two evenings this week.
Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy will perform at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. The performance is the first of six others lined up for the MSC OPAS Ann Cobb Wiatt Main Stage.
Cirque Dreams made its start at Texas A&M in 1993 before touring the United States and later the world — in theaters, theme parks, casinos and on Broadway in 2008. Cirque Dreams founder and director Neil Goldberg said he stayed in a dorm at A&M for a month while they were developing Cirque Dreams in campus facilities.
“After the success of that, I set out on recreating a whimsical jungle where we could engage these athletes and artists from all over the world,” Goldberg said. “It was a wonderful experience. It was the beginning of my touring career.”
Goldberg said although the show is family-friendly, there are also ways it has changed to cater to college-age students.
“I’m trying to relate to college attendees,” Goldberg said. “We have an artist who used to be a soccer player, and he actually juggles seven soccer balls. He was just in the opening of the last World Cup. We have transformed him into a monkey and have turned the soccer balls into coconuts.”
Goldberg said each performer changes costumes three times throughout the show and no scene lasts for more than four and a half minutes.
“Every scene in the show has a really interesting beginning and a spectacular ending,” Goldberg said. “Years ago, that used to be eight and a half minutes. We’ve literally cut it in more than half because we know audiences’ attention span. The goal is to keep you on the edge of your seat.”
Billy Jackson plays the grasshopper in the production and does acrobatics, tumbling, jump roping and dancing. Jackson said he enjoys the original music and the unique costumes the cast uses to bring a jungle to life.
“You can go to a traditional circus and see these circus acts that may be similar, but my favorite part is how we incorporate them into the theme,” Jackson said. “We have roller skating zebras and [acrobat] butterflies that do a beautiful duet number flying in the air.”
Jackson started working with Cirque Dreams in 2009 and has performed with other shows such as Cirque Dreams Holidaze. He said the show always changes with every new cast and new audiences.
“Each time we get a new cast, that’s a different person’s skill set,” Jackson said. “It doesn’t feel like the same show every night because you’re in front of a new set of people who are reacting differently. You never know what’s going to happen, it’s live theater.”
Jackson said he has been performing since he was a little kid and wants to continue pushing himself artistically.
“Everyone I think says when they’re little they’re going to run away and join the circus,” Jackson said. “It’s kind of fun to have actually done that.”
Students can buy tickets in-person from the MSC Box Office or online at boxoffice.tamu.edu. Prices range from $28 to $90 depending on the seat.