My theatrical 2009 will end on Thursday evening, when I see the final show I’ll be seeing this year. (For those who missed it, on the sidebar is a menu of all the shows I’ve seen this year – This is the second year one of my new years resolutions has been to see a show a month.)
I’m seeing Banana Shpeel, the new supposedly Broadway-Bound offering from Cirque du Soliel.
I use the word “supposedly” because… people hate this show.
I’m not kidding.
From legit reviews to just folks talkin’, word on the street is that Banana Shpeel is a bomb. It’s a show that’s had it’s issues from the start. For a while, Broadway actors Michael Longoria and Annaleigh Ashford were to star in the show, and their faces were pimped everywhere to promote the show. They even performed a number on America’s Got Talent. But then suddenly, one day, they were cut from the show. Not just the actors – their characters, their storylines. Huh. That’s probably not a good sign, right?
Here’s a brief spackle of some reviews:
“At one point—well, at several points, really—the two clowns who serve as the de facto hosts of Cirque du Soleil’s new proscenium-style show scream at each other to “Shut up!” “You shut up!” “Shut your face!” “Shut your hole!” If your experience is anything like ours, you’ll wish they’d each heed the other’s advice.” – Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago.
“For more than two decades, the inimitable artists of the Cirque du Soleil have beckoned us with the possibility of transformation. The flaps of a tent — or the doors from a Las Vegas casino — have opened, and we’ve been welcomed inside some profound manifestation of the creative imagination. Sure, the realms have varied. But there has always been art and heart. The key word there is “heart.” At “Banana Shpeel,” the cold, chaotic, clipped and cacophonous new show that the Cirque has bowed at the Chicago Theatre, you feel yourself slipping long before you get to any mat of welcome.” – Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune.
“Delete the clowns (or pare them back to the barest minimum of stage time). Begin the show with a big song-and-dance number. Hold onto the handful of eye-popping circus specialty acts. And compress everything else into a 90-minute show with no intermission. Only then (and it would still be a big “maybe”) might Cirque du Soleil’s new proscenium-style show, “Banana Shpeel” — which debuted Wednesday at the Chicago Theatre prior to a planned New York run — have a modicum of coherence and momentum. As it is now, this big-budget show, which plugs itself as “a new twist on vaudeville,” could very well give all that was delicious about the classic variety show format of days gone by (with such starry talents as Buster Keaton, Fanny Brice, Burt Williams and Eddie Cantor) a bad name.” – Hedy Weiss, Chicago SunTimes.
“I’m not quite sure what David Shiner and company did during those months in Montreal developing this show. The Cirque acts have no relationship with the underdeveloped crackpot clown scenes (at times, the ringleader clown guy would come out after a stunning Cirque performance and say “Wasn’t that AMAZING!” — and then introduce some lame, unrelated shtick). The entire affair felt slapped together. There was some attempt at a through-line with the clowns fruitlessly attempting to cast a Shakespeare routine, but no one around me seemed to know or care what was going on during these scenes.” – Robert Bullen, ChicagoTheatreAddict
“If I want to see poop, spit and penis jokes I can watch cartoons and Comedy Central. Kids in my local high school could and have done similar shows better. It’s a typical format, one we used in children’s theater. Put a bunch of skits together, make some ugly costumes, and put on a show for your parents. The parents laugh because they gave birth to you and they have to. I didn’t give birth to any of these guys, thank God, so I don’t have to laugh. And I didn’t. I am amazed and inspired by every Cirque performance I see. I go to every one in a several hundred mile radius of where I live. This inspired me to want to go have a drink afterward.” – Rebecca W, Comment left on ChicagoTheatreAddict
I’m a huge fan of Cirque du Soliel – “Mystere” in Las Vegas was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen onstage, and I cannot wait to see “Zumanity” in Vegas in February. And I always appreciate people stretching outside their comfort zone, but …
We’re having a pre-show drink. Sounds like we might need it.