I was 12 when I first attended a Cirque du Soleil performance. This was their Alegria show in Miami, Florida. Before attending the show, a family member dismissed the production as another circus production, only to be begrudgingly impressed by the production afterward. At that age, I was, of course, blown away by the quality, the acrobatics, the music, and the spectacle of the production and their hopeful message for its audience.
That spectacle, magic, and joy remain with every production I’ve had the luck and privilege to attend. Every Cirque show means I’m witnessing the pinnacle of human ability and physicality. But along with the impressive artistry of Cirque du Soleil, the production team has an unmatched ability to tell stories that most theater-goers rarely see in traditional theater.
Last night, among an enrapt audience in Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theater for Cirque du Soleil’s production of ’Twas the Night Before…, a child was practically standing on her seat to catch every moment of an inspiring and gravity-defying performance. That was a child who, I suspect, would remember this performance for the rest of her life. The same could be said about the rest of the audience. Among the cheers, claps, and gasps, the audience would murmur, “That’s wild,” “I can’t believe it,” or “Oh wow, that was sexy.”
Cirque du Soleil is not just a circus, and it does not follow the storytelling conventions of theater. Acts are broken up by its high-flying performances. The story, as the case for ’Twas the Night Before… is simple: a daughter and her father navigate a fantastical journey through a snowy landscape, trying to find each other, both literally and metaphorically, in a way they could not in their modernized world.
The story for ’Twas the Night Before… has a bit more exposition than the usual Cirque performance. There is no dialogue. The story is told through clown work and physicality, as usual. There is some narration, inspired by lines from the classic poem “The Night Before Christmas,” to cleverly integrate the story into the performances. The Diabolo act juggles spinning top-like, brightly-lit devices on strings (to an adapted tune of “Do You See What I See”). The Strap Duo and Hotel Cart acts, performed 20 feet in the air, are introduced with verse sections to guide the daughter in her “heroine’s journey” of discovery. From the Acro Table act mirroring the excitement of children on Christmas Eve (think parkour pillow fight) to the Hoop Diving finale, each act contributes to the overarching theme of joy, love, and reunion.
All of these elements come together at the end as the daughter reconnects with her father in this magical world, surrounded by Santa and his hip-hop/TikTok dancing elves.
The stage design and props play a crucial role in creating the magical atmosphere of the show. The use of 12,200 linear feet of garland and recycled artificial snow transforms the stage into a snowy wonderland.
Jean-Phi Goncalves’ musical direction contributes to the show’s unique charm. The blend of original compositions with beloved holiday tunes, giving them a thoroughly modern take, creates a festive “dance in your seat” soundtrack.
In summary, Cirque du Soleil’s ’Twas the Night Before… is a visually stunning and emotionally resonant holiday extravaganza. With its breathtaking acrobatics, meticulous craftsmanship, and enchanting narrative, the show is a celebration of family, joy, and the spirit of the holidays.
Running Time: Two hours, with no intermission.
’Twas the Night Before… plays through December 3, 2023, presented by Cirque du Soleil performing at The Hippodrome Theater at 12 N Eutaw St, Baltimore, MD. Tickets range from $64 to $149 and can be purchased online.
An interactive program optimized for mobile can be found here.
COVID Safety: Masks are recommended. The full policy for the Hippodrome Theater can be found here.
’Twas the Night Before…
Alicia Beaudoin (Isabella), Benjamin Courtenay (Father), Eduardo de Jesus Garcia Garza (St. Nick)
Dancers: Jenna Beltran, Kateryna Cherniavska, Valeria Cruz-Colon, Carlo Darang, Maya Kehll Abrams, Samuel Moore,
Acrobatic Table/Hoop Diving: Sekou Camara, Phelipe da Silva Albuquerque, Lucas de Melo, Remi Girard, Quentin Greco, Adam Grondin, Evan Tomlinson
Diabolo: Shuo-Chin Chien, Yan Chuan-Shen, Yu-Ti Chung, Ho-Li Tsao
Duo Straps: Antonio Dos Santos, Yuliya Goryagina
Roller Skating: Jesse Ferreira, Melania Lester
Hair Suspension: Jessica Oscar,
Hotel Cart: Masha Terentieva