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Theatre Review: Road to Palooza - a Cirque review
By Gordon Meyer
Let me say it up front. “Road to Palooza,” which is part of the Pasadena Playhouse’s Summer Cirque-a-Palooza Festival, is one of the most entertaining and jaw dropping evenings of theatre I’ve been to in a very long time. It’s a return to Vaudeville and the kind of novelty variety acts that the late Ed Sullivan used to feature in his iconic 1950s/60s CBS variety show (the same show that introduced the Beatles to the American public). And it was just plain fun.
Conceived, directed and curated by Stefan Haves, who has worked with Cirque du Soleil as a comic act designer since 2006, the show features a cornucopia of acrobats, clowns, jugglers and aerialists performing wildly entertaining bits. If you’ve seen a Cirque du Soleil show, you’ve already gotten a taste of what some of the gravity defying aerialists at the Pasadena Playhouse performed on twin 25 foot high silk drapes.
As with any variety show, some acts will stay with you longer than others. Here are some of my favorites in order of appearance:
The show kicked off with Paul Newman, a one man band who first entertained in the courtyard, then did a pre-show bit in the auditorium before the show officially began. Newman sang in a kind of retro style while accompanying himself alternately on a ukulele and soprano saxophone. Between his
lanky frame, long kinky hair and eccentric costuming, he made quite the visual impression. Between his exceptional talent and the glow on his face from the joy of his performance proved to be the perfect way to set the tone for the evening.
“Hand balancer” Andrey Moraru who came out with what was probably about a 6 foot wide metal hoop that he proceeded to spin and manipulate both by itself and with him inside the hoop.
Sword swallower Brett Loudermilk, who began his set by pulling the woman sitting next to me out of the audience to supervise as he inserted the first of several swords down his throat with hilarious results from her genuine reaction. After plenty of laughs from the audience, after my seat neighbor exited the stage, Loudermilk proceeded to swallow additional swords of various sizes and shapes. But the real joy of his act was in the way he interacted with the audience.
Hula Hoop master Matt Piendi kept as many as a metal dozen hula hoops spinning around several parts of his body, making them magically move independently of each other in sync with some classic big band swing jazz.
Then there was pancake juggler Scott Nery. You read that correctly. He came out with a frying pan, a hot plate and a bottle of pancake batter and kept us laughing while the oversized pancake cooked. When it did, he began flipping it without a spatula up to about six feet in the air, catching it back in the pan before flipping it back in the air again. He actually juggled both the fry pan and the pancake in ways that had the audience amazed.
In addition, there were a number of songs and ensemble acts including mimes, more aerialists and even a Stomp-inspired bit. And I have to also mention the band with original music by Emmy-nominated composer Philip Giffin and some fabulous singers.
I don’t rave often about shows, even the ones I really like. But Road to Palooza was so much fun, that I’m going to tell everyone I know to run and see it during its four performance run. It's general seating and tickets are only $30. Do yourself a favor and run to the Pasadena Playhouse box office to get your tickets while you can.
Listen to Gordon talk about what's hot in consumer electronics and home entertainment as co-host of "The Digital Doctor" with Jeff Levy live on www.HealhyLife.net Wednesday mornings at 8:00 AM Pacific time.