Gay ’Cirque Dreams Holidaze’ performer plays varied roles in seasonal production
‘Cirque Dreams: Holidaze’ Dec. 20-23Theater at MGM National Harbor 101 MGM National Ave.Oxon Hill, Md. $29-90
As the holidays approach, plenty of shows begin to crop up in theaters like “The Nutcracker” and “A Christmas Carol.” These classics are always on stand-by for audiences to revisit old favorites but it’s rare that a show comes along with a different approach to the holiday genre. Cirque Productions attempted to bring some extra spice to the season with its show “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.”
Broadway Director Neil Goldberg crafted the show with the idea of merging cirque artists and theatrical talent together to celebrate the holidays. The two-hour show cycles through the major end-of-the-year holidays of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s with the combined flare of a three-ring circus and Broadway show.
Flying gingerbread men, tight-rope walking toy soldiers, spinning penguins and caroling puppets are just some of the acts audiences can experience during the show. Expect the unexpected is a theme for this show which prides itself on always being different.
Michael Brown should know. He’s been a part of the touring cast for the past three years.
Brown, one of an international cast of 30, knows a lot about the unconventional. The 31-year-old out actor/vocalist grew up in a military family where he moved frequently to places around the world including Germany. Always on the move, there was one constant in Brown’s life.
“I started singing before I was even speaking,” Brown says. “It’s been a lifelong journey for me. It was actually Whitney Houston who was my love as a child and got me into it.”
Brown eventually settled in New York City, where’s he’s lived for the past 10 years, and kickstarted his career by performing on cruise ships. His close friend is YouTube star and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contributor Todrick Hall, who Brown works with on projects. Brown says he’s also performed in other national tours and regional theater gigs around the country.
When Cirque Productions came to New York City to audition talent, Brown decided to audition and earned a spot in the cast.
For the past three years, Brown has portrayed three characters in the show. First is Dickens whom Brown describes as a “Scrooge” character.
“He’s stealing presents, he’s going around being naughty on stage,” Brown says.
Then, Brown transforms into an elf, along with a couple female singers, for a large portion of the show.
“We’re just bopping around filling the stage and helping out the cirque acts,” he says.
Brown also appears in a brief cameo as Elvis Presley for a rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock” before transforming back into Dickens who is a changed man.
“Now he’s very refined, he’s fallen in love with the holidays and he’s very elegant,” Brown says.
Out of all the characters, Brown has one favorite that stands out from the rest.
“I love being the elf. The three of us singers on stage we really get to ham it up and enjoy being part of the acts that are going on stage so its definitely the most fun,” Brown says.
Despite portraying the same characters for years, Brown praises Goldberg for switching up the show each year with new songs and costumes to make the characters feel fresh.
This will be Brown’s eighth year away from his family during the holiday season as he says he’s usually touring with one production or another during this time of year. However, being with his international cast members makes it easier to be away from home.
“My roommate is from Ukraine. We’re in the northeast and showing him Boston, Chicago, New York City and D.C., the first time he’s seeing these cities, has been really exciting,” Brown says.
Another added bonus is the joy of the audience during each performance. Brown says performing is always fresh because he gets to experience the “wow” look on people’s faces during the show.
According to Brown, the audience has plenty of reason to be amazed. He notes that the 20-act show that combines Broadway performances with the circus acts makes for a production that appeals to everyone’s tastes.
“It’s really a show for everybody,” Brown says.
The show also isn’t short on glitz and glamour with 300 costumes worn throughout the show.
It’s the type of show that’s better to just see than to describe, Brown says.
“There’s a lot of sequins, there’s a lot of glitter,” Brown says. “So many things happen that you can’t even really explain in just a couple of words. You can expect anything.”