At the age of 6, Neil Goldberg knew he wanted to make the theater bigger, better and more spectacular. Never, however, in all his dreaming about the stage, did he see himself performing — and that’s still the case.
“I like to tell people that I am blessed with vivid imagination and the ability to see the possibilities in things,” said Goldberg, creator, director and producer of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” coming to Proctors for four performances this weekend. “I never acted or performed, not at all. But I can see things, and then create something from that vision.”
Goldberg and his Cirque Dreams franchise began in 1993 and features an international cast of more than 30 multitalented and brilliantly costumed artists that, according to Goldberg, “offer astonishing feats of disbelief.” This special holiday edition has the usual number of acrobatic flips and toy soldiers marching on thin wires, along with the beautiful music of the holiday season that helps bring Christmas to life.
‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze’
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $50-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org
Show for the whole family
In the case of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” it’s all about the ornaments. “The premise and the focus is on ornaments and how they come to life,” said Goldberg.
“Today, ornaments can represent anything, and we have 32 artists who will wear over 300 costumes in this two-hour show to bring those ornaments to life. They will sing, they will fly through the air, they will twist themselves into all kinds of contortions. If you love cutting-edge acrobatics and want to hear some beautiful holiday songs, then bring the kids and their grandparents. The show is something everyone can enjoy.”
A native of Oceanside, on Long Island, Goldberg said his young life was transformed when his parents took him to see a Broadway play.
“After I saw my first Broadway show at age 6, I came back home and immediately started turning shoeboxes into little stages and making miniature furniture,” he said. “I was always enamored with the illusion of what happens onstage, and the perception of it by those people sitting in the seats watching. I like to think that I’m athletic, but I was never interested in becoming a performer. I started out as a scenic designer and just stayed behind the scenes.”
Goldberg got his degree in theater arts at C.W. Post and immediately headed off to New York City.
Dabbling in theater
“I started dabbling in as many theatrical things as I could, and I also got a full-time job as a textile designer in the heart of the garment district,” he said. “I ended up in Florida because my company, the largest textile manufacturing company in the world, made me a financial offer I couldn’t refuse. I was 22, I hadn’t won any Tonys yet, so I headed to Florida.”
Goldberg continued to dabble in local theater in Florida, and eventually started producing events for various corporations. In 1989, a representative from Bally’s in Atlantic City was in attendance at one of his circus shows, and six months later Goldberg was producing his show on the New Jersey coast.
“I started with three employees a little over 20 years ago, and now I have over 125 with three different productions going on simultaneously,” he said.
“Each show has its own unique flavor. We have some performers who move from show to show, and then we have some particular artists with a very unique skill that the bring to the table. But they’re all amazing people with amazing skills, and we give them the opportunity to reinvent themselves.”
Goldberg describes his show as “Radio City Spectacular meets the circus on Broadway.” In June of 2008, “Cirque Dreams” was produced on Broadway for a limited run, but now his higher goal is to get to as many U.S. military bases as he can around the world.
Performing for troops
“I’m very proud of the fact that we have a tour just coming back from South Korea, where we performed at U.S. military bases and gave our servicemen and women and their families the opportunity to see some great entertainment,” he said.
“We forged a partnership with Armed Forces Entertainment and the Department of Defense to bring free and live entertainment, quality entertainment, to our troops at home and abroad, and we will be doing much more of that in the future.”
While Goldberg has a strong nucleus of performers at his disposal, he continues to have open auditions from time to time to get more people involved in the show.
“We’ll hold auditions in New York for Broadway musical theater performers, and then we blend them in with our acrobats from 10 different countries,” he said. “There’s no real story involved. Our Christmas show is about the ornaments and our imagination.”
Goldberg brought “Cirque Ingenieux” to Proctors in 1998 and ’99, and just three years ago “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy” took the Proctors stage.
“We love the stage there and we’re looking forward to taking the audience on a great journey,” said Goldberg. “We’ll be using all that wonderful space they have there.”