Arts and Culture | Local

Cirque Dreams, brainchild of a New York yeshiva boy, soars into Tucson

Cirque Dreams founder Neil Goldberg

How did a nice Jewish boy — and Orthodox at that — create a theatrical circus? “Cirque Dreams: Illumination,” featuring swirling acrobatics, dazzling costumes and choreography, will run at UApresents for five shows at Centennial Hall Dec. 10-12.

It all started on Broadway for Cirque Dreams creator and director Neil Goldberg. “My mother took me to see ‘The Miracle Worker’ when I was six years old,” he told the AJP, sparking his early interest in the arts. “I always had a very vivid imagination.” By age 12, Goldberg had taken dance, accordion and trumpet lessons, and he had already started molding cardboard shoe boxes into stage sets. But it wasn’t until attending C.W. Post College on Long Island that, says Goldberg, “I became engaged with the theatrical. My imagination exploded.”

After college, his first full-time job was as a textile designer in the New York garment district at United Merchants and Manufacturers. Within two years, Goldberg was transferred to head up their South Florida office, all the while continuing to pursue event design and party production. Soon he left his job and launched Parties by Neil, followed by Entertainment, Etc., Creative Cloths and The Zanadu Dance Company, which ultimately led Goldberg to the design of high-profile entertainment events throughout the world.

He began combining European and American theatrics, and in 1991, created a multinational variety show for IBM. Attending one of Goldberg’s private cirque shows was the vice president of marketing for Bally’s Hotel and Casino, Joe Jimenez, who invited Goldberg to bring Cirque Dreams to Atlantic City.

For 18 years now, Goldberg has been expanding his “brand.” He also began his Dream Foundation, which helps find unique ways to enrich arts organizations.

One of Goldberg’s best-known productions, “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy,” made history as the first and only cirque show to have ever been produced on Broadway. That show appeared in Tucson about three years ago on its pre-Broadway tour, says Goldberg.

“Cirque Dreams: Illumination” will bring to Tucson a cast of 27 international artists from eight countries, portraying everyday people, workers and pedestrians who transform themselves into high-wire walkers, leap structures and redefine flight. Comedy, urban acrobatics, illusions and special effects are accompanied by jazz, salsa, ballroom, pop and trendy beats from city streets.

Goldberg, who was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in New York, attended yeshiva as a boy. He now travels around the world directing five different Cirque Dreams shows but still “observes all the Jewish holidays,” noting that he recently made a glatt kosher wedding for his daughter.

“I’m proud of my Jewish heritage,” says Goldberg, adding that he’s been invited to Shabbat dinner in many American cities and in countries such as Germany. The rituals are “very similar in other parts of the world. Kiddush is the same. People really are the same at Shabbos dinner anywhere,” he says. “No matter how far apart we are in geography people are the same.”

Tickets range from $15-55. For more information, call 621-3341 or visit www.