Cirque Musica performs their Russian Bar routine.
TCG Entertainment’s Cirque Musica family holiday stage show will start on Nov. 26 and run through Dec. 18 with dates in the U.S. and Canada. The show brings together an international cast of high-flying cirque stars and a live symphony orchestra.
“I’ve always loved the symphony,” said Stephen Cook, creator and producer of Cirque Muscia. Six years ago Cook was working for Feld Entertainment and Ringling Bros. Circus. “I realized we needed to bring new people into the symphony experience. I kept thinking, ‘how do I get people unfamiliar with a symphony to come to one?’ The answer was staring me in the face, combine it with something people already love and respond to, the circus.”
“So I brought together my two loves — the circus and the symphony,” he said.
Cirque Musica did two shows in its first year. Six years later, Cook is the biggest producer of symphony shows in the country and Cirque Musica will perform 35 shows in 28 cities starting in Whitely Hall, Louisville, Ky., Nov. 26 and ending at Smart Financial Center, Sugar Land, Texas, Dec. 18.
Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular showcases the best artists from the cirque world together with all-time favorite holiday songs performed by a live orchestra. The concert and visual experience brings audiences on a journey into the world of high-flying adventure featuring amazing acrobats, aerialists, hijinks and holiday cheer.
“The production is unique,” said Cook. “It blends the spell-binding grace and daredevil athleticism of the incredible cast of circus performers together with the sensory majesty of the most memorable holiday music presented via the power of a live symphony.”
“It’s going to amaze audiences and capture the spirit of the season in a completely innovative and entertaining way. This went from an idea in my head to a multipronged arena tour in five years.”
Cook starts by picking out the music. He then finds acts that work well with the music. “I’ve been at this a long time and I know which acts are the best of the best and what acts will fit with the music.”
He sends the acts a recording of the music piece for the cirque performers to rehearse with, and then he blends the cirque act with the symphony. Some of the music this year is “O' Holy Night,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Silent Night” and music from “The Nutcracker.” “I try to pick music that the people know and are familiar with.”
A typical symphony has between 44-65 players. There are 20-25 cirque performers. “Each orchestra is different, and I often don’t really know them well,” said Cook. “The majority of the cirque performers have been with me for many, many years.” Most of the cirque performers do two acts and then participate in the group numbers.
The tech for the show is not usual. “You can’t have the symphony for two weeks so there’s not a lot of rehearsal with the orchestras,” he said. “So we do a different type of show package with a lot of visuals and video that dosn’t need too much on-site tech set up.”
As for the rigging for the aerial performers, Cook is happy to report that it takes zero trucks to bring the equipment with him. “We bring all the aerial gear in our hands; we carry it all with us. Other producers are quite jealous when I tell them.”
The Cirque Musica tour grosses $3.5 million in ticket sales. The budget is “several hundred thousand dollars,” according to Cook. The show also has a robust merchandising program. “The merchandise part is growing very well,” said Cook. “We sell a lot of lights and musical instruments. My favorite piece of merchandise is the Cirque Musica ugly Christmas sweater.” Cook works with Manhead, Nashville, on the merchandise.
A typical theater space has 2,000-2,500 seats and an arena space has 4,000- 6,000. “Audiences love the concept,” said Cook. “The real payoff for me is when we see kids having a good time, clapping and cheering.”
“I love this show,” said Kevin Preast, Amalie Arena, Tampa, Fla. “I had Cirque Musica play when I was in Philips Arena, Atlanta; and when I came to Amalie Arena, I thought it would make a great addition to our programming, and booked it.”
“It’s a good family holiday show; fun for kids and it exposes new audiences to the symphony and creates new symphony fans,” he said.
Tickets at Amalie Arena for Cirque Musica run from $20-$95. “It’s a very robust show with lots to look at. There are the cirque performers plus a lot of projection and video.”
Preast likes that despite the aerial aspect “it doesn’t take more than a concert to put together. They load-in in the morning; there are no unique requirements for the rigging other than to anchor the trusses.”
“Stephen Cook does a great job of putting the show together and making it a smooth experience for the venue operators.”
Cook’s next show will be “Heroes and Villains,” using a similar concept of cirque performers and the symphony.
Interviewed for this story: Stephen Cook, (972) 727-7779; Kevin Preast, (813) 301-6763