Reviews: Cirque and Feinstein

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There’s not enough room in my IBJ print column this week to discuss all I’m seeing this week. Plus, I wanted to get word to you on these two while they are still in town. So here’s two quick reviews:

First, I haven’t seen Cirque du Soleil’s Vegas shows, but I can say that while “Saltimbanco” (at Conseco Fieldhouse through Sunday) doesn’t reach the soulful, surreal heights of the company’s Florida show “La Nuba,” it does effectively clear the palate of the bad taste left by “Delirium,” the underwhelming last Cirque production to play here. 

“Saltimbanco” restores the wonder, the jaw-dropping stunts, and the dreamlike semi-narrative that earned the brand its reputation. Its highlights include some where-do-I-look-now pre-show fun from a roving troupe of clowns, a lizard-like group of people-creatures who slither along the floor and transform into remarkably controlled pole climbers (often one-handed), a duo of rhythmic drummers who turn what look like jump ropes into musical and visual delights, and true edge-of-your-seat trapeze work.  

The pretense of plot gets tossed away fairly early in favor of an vaudeville-on-steroids format–and the ending seems to happen arbitrarily– but that doesn’t take away from the wonders contained within. Yes, ticket prices are steep, but the show doesn’t scrimp. Unless you’ve seen other official Cirque du Soleil shows, you’ve never seen anything like it.

This morning I caught the coffee pop edition of singer/pianist Michael Feinstein’s weekend engagement with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The coffee concerts are shorter programs, which means there’s even more on the bill tonight through Sunday evenings.

Feinstein, namesake of not only a hot New York cabaret room but also of the Carmel-based foundation dedicated to preserving great American songs, is a compellingly evangelical champion of the work of Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, the Gershwins, and their remarkable songwriting peers. His enthusiasm is infectious, his piano skills impressive, and his storytelling ability marvelous. (It’s likely he’ll share with you his tale of, at 22, being asked to perform at a Frank and Barbara Sinatra party.)   

His singing isn’t top tier–think more Paul Anka than the Chairman of the Board–but on this all-Sinatra-covered program, he managed to find a nice, aggressive approach to “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” and “All I Need is the Girl” and the right degree of passion for “Begin the Beguine,” which was given a Nelson Riddle-like arrangement. Closing with a tender “My Funny Valentine” was an expected, but nonetheless sweet and appropriate touch. 

As to the ISO, hats off to all, especially the horn section, which really had a chance to swing. And to conductor Jack Everly, who once again reminded audiences that, when his Pops are playing, the Hilbert Circle Theatre is one of the most entertaining places to be in Indy.

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