The Column Online



Presented by Cirque du Soleil

Texas Trust CU Theatre

Reviewed Performance: 11/25/2022

Reviewed by Chris Hauge, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

The Holiday season has officially begun, and Christmas programs are popping up all around the metroplex like so many stockings hung upon the fireplace. At the Texas Trust CU Theatre in Grand Prairie, Cirque du Soleil has filled a stocking for the people of the Dallas/Fort Worth area that is crammed with enough magic and wonder to delight young and old alike. “T’was the Night Before…” is a delightful take on the classic poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, bringing the work firmly into the Twenty-First Century with thrilling music, amazing dancing and acrobatics, and a heart so packed with joy that you couldn’t possibly leave the theatre in a bad mood. It is a terrific way for you and your family to escape the hubbub and stress that this time of year can bring.

This is the forty-ninth production and the first Christmas Show from Cirque du Soleil, which began in 1984 with a group of twenty street performers. Based in Montreal, Canada, Cirque has transformed the circus world with imaginative stories, spectacular sets, and mind-blowing feats of physical prowess. They have been seen in over ninety countries on six continents, amazing more than three hundred sixty-five million spectators throughout the last thirty-eight years. “T’was the Night Before…” was the first time my wife and I have gotten to see the troupe perform live and the show was just as incredible as I thought it would be.

It seems that many of the stories told by Cirque du Soleil, at least the ones I have seen on TV, involve some kind of journey and that is certainly the case here. It is Christmas Eve, and it is a family tradition for the father to read “A Visit from St. Nicholas” to his daughter Isabella. She feels she is too old for such things and prefers to spend time on her smartphone with her headphones blasting her favorite music. Into this picture comes a mischievous group of dancing pranksters called ‘Les Tuques’ (the caps), who take her electronic devices and cause a snowstorm to erupt from her bed which separates her from her father and starts her on a pilgrimage in search of the real meaning of the poem and of the season itself.

Isabella encounters different characters loosely based on the ones described in the poem. A man and a woman in snowy costumes execute a breathtaking aerial routine that seems to embody winter and the snow that is blanketing the ground and the houses in white. We get to meet ‘the children all snug in their beds’ whose visions of sugarplum dance so vigorously in their heads that they run around the room pelting each other with pillows and leaping lengthwise over the bed and the other children. There is the delightful Jolly, clad in an ash-covered cloak and hiding a secret identity, who entertains Isabella with juggling and stunning bicycle tricks. Even the father has a moment to shine for his daughter, performing in the air with a lamp to a gorgeous version of the Christmas hymn ‘O Come, O Come, Emanuel,’ and seemingly becomes one with the spiritual light of the season. And all ends well, with Isabella and her father reuniting with a renewed respect for the holiday and each other.

All of this is performed in a colorful grotto of garland and light, with a slide at the back of the stage for actors to slide in and out of the action. The lighting design helps advance the story’s mood with seamless transitions, which add to the atmosphere of wonder that permeates the entire production. The costumes are charming, from the quirky parkas of Les Tuques to the glittering team jackets (complete with names emblazoned on the back) and antler-topped ball caps of the reindeer. There is enough sparkle and whimsey to please even the most discerning fans of fun and fantasy. The music is a wonderfully arranged pastiche of familiar Christmas music. Loud and energetic when it needs to be, yet not afraid to let there be quiet contemplative moments, lending an air of poignancy to the performance it was accompanying.

Regarding individual performances, I don’t think it would be possible to use too many superlatives. The dancing of Les Tuques, who facilitated the scene changes, was fun and excellent. A young woman with the character name of Ava performed in what can only be described as a flying hotel luggage cart to a stirring version of ‘The Carol of the Bells’ and it was enchanting. There was a rambunctious group throwing around the ‘spark’ of the season in the form of lighted diabolos (extra-large yo-yos), hurling them to the stage from the seating area and zipping them on strings around audience members who had been brought on stage. And I cannot leave out the reindeer. With deer-like movements (my wife said it looked like they were frolicking) they pranced around the stage and made jumping through hoops (which got progressively higher) look easy and fun. They were a highlight of the show.

I’m a little frustrated that I do not have a list of specific actors or design personnel. The superb quality of this production certainly warrants praising the individuals responsible for making this show splendid. I express my thanks to the entire team, from the setup crew to the costume people, to the actors, and all the various crew members that made all of this possible. Your work gave me so much joy.

So come check out your stocking, which is hanging up at the Texas Trust CU Theatre. I hope you find the same magic and wonder that I found in mine. And maybe, at the end of the performance, you will feel like dancing for joy like a little kid on Christmas morning. I know I would benefit from that. Perhaps you will too.

Cirque du Soleil
Texas Trust CU Theatre, 1001 Texas Trust Way, Grand Prairie, TX 75050
November 25 – December 11, 2022
Wednesday – Friday – 7:30 PM
Saturday – 1:00 PM, 4:00 PM, & 7:30 PM
Sunday – 12:00 noon, 3:00 PM, & 6:00 PM
Tickets are available through AXS - Call 888-929-7849
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