As a kid on his way home from elementary school, Neil Goldberg would pull tinsel and forgotten ornaments off discarded Christmas trees put out on the curb in his New York City neighborhood.
“My mom wasn’t thrilled I was bringing this stuff home. The tinsel wound up in the trash, of course, but I got to keep the ornaments,” says Goldberg, who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home and never put up a tree of his own.
Over time, that ornament collection grew, and today it’s the inspiration behind Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a show coming Dec. 4 through 9 to Mesa Arts Center and Phoenix’s Orpheum Theatre.
“It’s like Radio City meets the circus on Broadway,” says Goldberg, Holidaze’s creator, in a telephone interview. “Anything you can image about the winter season or memories of the holidays as a kid, it’s there, come to life through what you would imagine these various ornaments might do.”
Thirty-two performers embody the whimsical characters, from an opening scene in which they’re suspended from an enormous Christmas tree to a cookie helping build a gingerbread house, a penguin slipping and sliding on ice skates, toy soldiers marching on wires, contortionist candy canes twisting and bending, and snowmen dancing.
They perform to a soundtrack of original music and holiday tunes, and their 300-plus costumes sparkle with about $50,000 worth of Swarovski crystals, according to Goldberg. Four musical theater actors from New York’s Broadway sing in the show, which is set amid towering candy canes, huge shiny gift boxes, and characters measuring 15 and 30 feet tall.
Nothing on stage lasts longer than four minutes in the 90-minute production.
“Don’t feel that if you can’t sit in the first 20 rows, you’re going to miss something. Actually, the further away you sit, the more you see because there’s so much to look at and so much going on,” says Goldberg, who is founder and creative force behind Florida-based Cirque Dreams, a 20-year-old production company that mounts shows across the nation and overseas.
It also stages performances for U.S. troops and their families on bases at home and abroad, and fosters youngsters’ artistic potential through the Neil Goldberg Dream Foundation and Cirque Dreams KidsTime programs.
Holidaze, Goldberg says, is “a celebration of everything we know and enjoy about the holidays from the time we’re kids.”
A holdover from his own childhood — that ornament collection — is still going strong.
“Now I have over 10,000 (ornaments). A lot of people travel and pick up T-shirts or souvenirs. Mine is ornaments,” he says.
If you go
What: Cirque Dreams “Holidaze”
In Mesa: Dec. 4-5 at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St., (480) 644-6500 or MesaArtsCenter.com.
In Phoenix: Dec. 6-9 at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix, (800) 745-3000.
Cost: Tickets start at $25
Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or email@example.com