On Stage: The circus is always in town these days

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times 

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

You could paraphrase the old saying “When one door closes, another door opens,” with this — “When one circus finishes its run in this area, another circus will open soon.”

In the past few months, the Delaware Valley has received visits from Cirque Italia’s water circus, Cirque du Soleil’s “Volta,” UniverSoul Circus and Paranormal Cirque (at two different locations).

This weekend, there are two circus options on the local calendar – “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” in Wilmington and the UniverSoul Circus in Philadelphia.

For three days only, there will be a holiday-themed circus show taking place locally when the The Playhouse on Rodney Square (10th and Market streets, Wilmington, Delaware, 302-652-5577www.thegrandwilmington.org) hosts “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” from November 23-25

The show, which was created and directed by Neil Goldberg, is a stage spectacular that takes Christmas entertainment to a whole new level. “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” has an international cast of more than two dozen talented performers performing old and new Christmas numbers.

It features snowmen daringly balancing, penguins spinning, gingerbread men flipping midair, toy soldiers marching on thin wires, puppets dancing and reindeer soaring high above a landscape of holiday wonderment.

The touring spectacle, which played the same venue in 2014 and 2011, also features an original music score along with some seasonal favorites, over 300 super colorful costumes and a stage setting with a 20-foot tall tree, gigantic gifts, colossal candy canes and 30-foot towering soldiers.

“The production is even bigger than it was the last time we brought it there,” said Goldberg, during a phone interview Tuesday evening from a tour stop in Mobile, Alabama.

“It has 30 artists from all over the world, 20 acts and a lot of new music by Jill Winters. It looks and feels like a Broadway musical. There are great songs and big Broadway-style production numbers along with all the fun and pageantry of a holiday show.

“This is our 10th season with this show and we have three ‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze’ productions out on the road. We also have two ‘Cirque Dreams Unwrapped’ shows going on right now.

“In ‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze,’ there are 20 scenes, and each tells a different story of the holiday seas – New Year’s Eve, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Santa and the North Pole. We also have a ‘Humbug’ character who greets the audience during the pre-show.”

Goldberg is the founder and creative force behind Cirque Dreams, an American theatrical production company. The company has a number of spectacular shows on the road, including “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy”, “Cirque Dreams Illumination”, “Cirque Dreams Coobrila” and “Cirque Dreams Splashtastic.”

“The concept for this show evolved from my being a collector of Christmas ornaments,” said Goldberg. “I have a collection with thousands of ornaments from all over the world. I was so inspired by these ornaments.

“I thought they’d make great character costumes. There are over 300 costumes used in each performance. The performers’ skills have been put into holiday themes. The Winter Wonderland is an awesome production number. This is a high energy, very fast-paced show with two acts — each about 50 minutes long. It’s a holiday stage spectacle that puts smiles on people’ faces.”

Video link for Cirque Dreams Holidaze — https://youtu.be/GvgexEXbmoM.

Performances of Cirque Dreams Holidaze are scheduled for November 23 at 8 p.m., November 24 at 2 and 8 p.m., and November 25 at 2 p.m. Ticket prices range from $40-$90.

The UniverSoul Circus

The UniverSoul Circus (52nd Street and Parkside Avenue, Philadelphia, 800-345-7000, www.universoulcircus.com), which is entering the final two weeks of its run in Philadelphia, provides circus fans with a very different experience.

The circus will be in town now through December 2 at its site in Fairmount Park.

The world-class circus’ performances, which will be held in the UniverSoul Big Top next to the Mann Music Center, blend traditional circus attractions with urban culture, hip hop tunes and world beat music. It’s the lively music that elevates the show to another level.

The UniverSoul Circus is a top-flight live entertainment attraction that has captured the hearts and imaginations of a new generation of families.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, UniverSoul Circus has come full circle in its influence in the international entertainment marketplace – garnering the distinction of being known as a one-of-a-kind, must see attraction.

Since its first performance in 1994, The UniverSoul Circus has presented more than 10,000 performances to live audiences, exceeding 20 million people, and has been seen in more than 60 million households on both local and national television networks. The Emmy-nominated HBO special remained in rotation for more than six years.

UniverSoul connects with progressive, upwardly mobile, urban pop cultures from around the world. It embraces and celebrates the unique and familiar aspects of global cultures and ethnicities into a stellar production that blends circus arts, theater and music.

Celebrating 25 years under the big top, UniverSoul Circus features music, theatrical performances, incredible circus acts and loads of fun. The show features a variety of acts from around the world including flashy Caribbean dancers, acrobats from Africa, high-flying trapeze artists, mind-boggling contortionists, funny clowns, lions, zebras and much more.

circus will be in town now through December 2 at its site in Fairmount Park.

Video link for UniverSoul Circus — https://youtu.be/UatZSn1JJbQ.

The show at UniverSoul Big Top will run now through December 2 with early afternoon, late matinee and evening performances. Ticket prices start at $22.

This weekend’s schedule has an international flavor with circus artists from Europe in Cirque Dreams Holidaze and African and Caribbean acts in the UniverSoul Circus.

Keeping the international vibe going on November 25 will be The Faim, a rock band from Australia, and Korpiklaani, a goth folk band from Finland.

The Faim

The Faim, a talented young pop-punk band from Perth, share the bill with Hands Like Houses on November 25 at The Foundry at Fillmore Philadelphia (1100 Canal Street, Philadelphia, 215-309-0150, www.thefillmorephilly.com).

The quartet — Josh Raven – Lead Vocals; Stephen Beerkens – Bass/Keyboard; Sean Tighe – Drums and Percussion; Sam Tye – Guitar / Bass – has been together for a while but is in no rush to put out an album just for the sake of releasing an album.

“This is our first time to tour the states,” said Raven, during a phone interview last week as the band was in the process of a new experience.

“We’re in the van on our way to Denver and it’s snowing a lot. This is the first time I’ve ever seen snow in person. It doesn’t snow at all in Perth.

“We came to the states once prior to this tour. We came to Los Angeles to record with producer John Feldmann about a year ago. In our first session, we did 14 tracks and got eight in the second one. Out of those, we’ll take five or six for the album – maybe, I don’t know. At the end of the day, we want to have the best songs we can.

“We’ve released one EP as a band. We don’t want to rush things and release an album now. Our priority is being diverse – and keeping diverse. We’re alternative pop rock. We indulge all our influences – songs we love and our personalities…things that shaped us as human beings.

“We all have a piece in the songwriting. We’re all up there onstage. The songs wouldn’t be the same without everyone in the band’s influence.”

In addition to working with a top-flight producer such as John Feldmann, The Faim also inked an international deal with BMG.

While working with Feldman, the band benefited from the producer’s connections. At Feldman’s request, Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy came by the studio and co-wrote The Faim’s single, “Saints Of The Sinners.”

Still, the band has been very patient with its recorded output.

“It’s important to keep reaching people,” said Raven. “We really want to release an album, but it’s been hard to find the time.

“We did our first show together four years ago. Me and Steve were in high school together. We had similar music tastes, so we decided to form a band. Then, we got Sean to be in the band. Sam joined the band a little while ago.

“Once we started, it didn’t take us long to start recording. But we still have just one EP. Sometimes, it can take 100 sings to find an album.”

Even without the benefit of an album to attract listeners, the band from the remote city on the West Coast of Australia has been building a strong international following. Since the quartet’s launch in February, the band has clocked more than eight million total global streams and landed on Spotify’s New Music Friday, Rock This, and New Noise playlists.

Now, the foursome is ready to expand its fanbase via a series of electrifying shows.

“We’re definitely playing all the EP songs,” said Raven. “We’ll also be playing some of the new songs. We’re really passionate and energetic onstage. The live set is a rock show.”

Video link for The Faim – https://youtu.be/7oNcPG_uXWI.

The all-ages show at The Foundry, which also features Hands Like Houses, Devour the Day, Emarosa, and Arlington, will start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $17.

Other upcoming shows at The Foundry are Yung Punch on November 23, The Contortionist: Reimagined Tour on November 24, The Wrecks on November 27, and Draco Rosa on November 28.

Korpiklaani

Korpiklaani, which is headlining a show at the Theatre of the Living Arts (334 South Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1011, http://www.lnphilly.com) on November 25, is a goth metal/folk band from Lahti, Finland that has been making albums for 15 years. In 2003, Korpiklaani evolved from a previous Finnish band called Shaman.

Jonne Järvelä (vocals, guitars) is the only founding member of Korpiklaani/Shaman still in the band. Matti “Matson” Johansson (drums) and Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi (guitarist) have been in the line-up since 2003 with Jarkko Aaltonen (bass) having joined in 2005. The tulokkaita (Finnish for “newcomers”) are Tuomas Rounakari (violin), who came on board in 2012, and Sami Perttula (accordion), who has been a member of Korpiklaani since 2013.

Korpiklaani is currently touring the states in support of its new album “Kulkija,” which was released on Nuclear Blast Records a few months ago.

“We recorded the album in December last year,” said Rounakari, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “It took forever to come out.

“The album was released in September. We wanted it to be released last winter right after we finished making it, but the record company had other ideas. We already started to play the new songs during the summer festival season.”

Making new recordings is always an involved process for Korpiklaani – especially since many of the band’s members live in Finnish cities other than Lahti.

“Jonne still lives in Lahti, which is fairly close to Helsinki,” said Rounakari. “The rest of us are scattered all over Finland. I live in Kokkola, which is on the northwest coast.

“We rarely practice nowadays because we play over 100 shows a year. We have our rehearsals on the road. Soundchecks are our rehearsal times. With the songwriting, Jonne has done 90 per cent of the songs. Sometimes, his demos are rough and unfinished so there is a lot of room for the rest of us to explore. He’s not a dictator.”

Most folk metal bands start with metal before adding folk music. Korpiklaani began with folk music and then added metal. The roots of Korpiklaani can be traced back to a Sami folk music group created in 1993 by Järvelä. A little while later, Shamaani Duo morphed into Shaman.

Shaman was known for the heavy use of original native Sámic music elements and lyrics. The most widely-used elements are Joik (or Yoik), Humppa and Shamanic drum.

The Sami are a Finno-Ugric people living in Sápmi, which today encompasses large parts of Norway and Sweden, northern parts of Finland, and the Murmansk Oblast of Russia. Some famous people whose roots are in the Sami region are actress Renee Zellweger, the late legendary jazz bassist Jaco Pastorious and National Hockey League Hall of Fame member Börje Salming.

Korpiklaani still show their Sámic roots in their music and feature joiking in some of their songs. Järvelä and Rounakari both have studied joiking.

“Jonne learned joiking years ago when he married into the Aaiko family,” said Rounakari. “I learned joiking from Áilloš, who is a master of the art form.”

Joik, a part of the Sami culture since ancient times, is used to express relationships to people and nature. Traditionally, joiks have no lyrics but rather consist of chanting. They can also include mimicry of animal sounds. Joik can be performed for purposes of entertainment, but they can also have a spiritual function. Most people acquire their own melody, like a signature tune.

“Joiking is like nothing else,” said Rounakari. “It’s rhythmically very complex. Joiks don’t have a beginning or an end. You can begin it or end it at any point – and it uses vowels that are in between vowels. Joiking is also a sign of a person’s nature.”

Joiking and many other traditional elements have merged with Korpiklaani’s metal influences to make the bad what it is today. Their new album “Kulkija” is a shining example.

“As a band, we’re really happy with the songs on ‘Kulkija,’” said Rounakari. “Our previous album ‘Noita’ was the album where we found the balance of folk and metal. With ‘Kulkija,’ we took it a step further. There is more a folk music feel to how we play – more melodic. And, the Shamanic side is still part of the process.”

Video link for Korpiklaani – https://youtu.be/ZB7PyLYQyXg.

The show at the TLA, which also features Arkona and Frist Giant, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming shows at the Theatre of the Living Arts are Allen Stone on November 24, and Amine on November 28.

Jimmy Carroll

Kennett Flash (102 Sycamore Alley, Kennett Square, 484-732-8295http://www.kennettflash.org) is hosting Jimmy Carroll (“The Last of The Boomers”), Todd Chappelle, and Joe Bublewicz on November 23 and Zack DuPont (of The DuPont Brothers) on November 24.

The Ardmore Music Hall (23 East Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore, 610-649-8389www.ardmoremusic.com) will present Steve Kimock & Friends on November 23, Huffamoose with special guest Cookie Rabinowitz on November 24, and “AMH Friends & Fam Jam” on November 25.

The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650www.keswicktheatre.com) presents “The Machine performs Pink Floyd” on November 23.

The Sellersville Theater (24 West Temple Avenue, Sellersville, 215-257-5808www.st94.com) will have “Gary Hoey’s Ho Ho Hoey Rockin’ Holiday Show” with The Rob Balducci Band on November 23, Almost Queen (Queen Tribute) on November 24, Irish Christmas In America on November 27, and Coco Montoya with Sister Blue on November 28.

The Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484- 273-0481, sonapub.com) will host Stephen Kellogg with special guest Taylor Carson on November 23 and Francis Dunnery on November 24.

The Queen (500 North Market Street, Wilmington, 202-730-3331, www.thequeenwilmington.com) will present Ben LeRoy & The Snap on November 24. The Candlelight Theatre (2208 Millers Road, Arden, Delaware, 302- 475-2313www.candlelighttheatredelaware.org) is presenting its production of “She Loves Me” running now through December 23. Performances are Friday and Saturday evenings (doors 6 p.m./show, 8 p.m.) and Sunday afternoons (doors, 1 p.m./show, 3 p.m.). Tickets, which include dinner and show, are $63 for adults and $33 for children (ages 4-12).

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