Story by Janet Roberts
Photos by Lou Baldanza
Want to run away and join the circus? That’s just what Therese Curatolo has done. You’ll find her in the spotlight when “A Magical Cirque Christmas” comes to the Cobb Energy Centre, but she won’t be handling elephants or getting shot out of a cannon.
Curatolo is the soloist whose vocal artistry brings the music of Christmas to the magical assembly of aerialists, acrobats, and illusionists who make up the 2019 production of “A Magical Cirque Christmas.”
“I perform throughout the show, singing while the acts and sets change and during some performances,” Curatolo says.
This Cirque has no animal acts. Instead, it builds on traditional human-powered circus skills like aerial and acrobatic performances in a theatrical setting to create a show for all ages.
“We equate our show to the Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas extravaganza, minus the Rockettes,” she says.
The 2019 tour includes 40 dates and winds its way across the United States from the East Coast to the Midwest, down to Atlanta and points south, then over to Arizona before wrapping up in California. Like circuses of old, it’s never in the same city twice and is always on the move.
That might exhaust an average person, but Cirque’s performers are circus folk, and they roll with it, Curatolo says.
“You get used to it,” she says. “Last year, we did six to seven shows a week, with matinees. It just works. The idle mind is the devil’s workshop, and we don’t do well when we just sit still. That’s what makes us a circus.”
Her repertoire includes carols, classical and contemporary holiday songs, and novelty songs, along with sing-alongs. “We do everything from Celine Dion and Mariah Carey to Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole,” she says.
Audience participation is a regular feature of the show. No, you won’t have to swing on a trapeze or spin around on a giant wheel. But this year’s emcee, English magician/comedian John Archer might pull willing spectators up on stage for – well, anything is possible!
Curatolo’s musical contributions stitch together a wide variety of performances in the air and on the ground, and also give her a close-up view that can be a little unnerving to the earthbound.
“The show, visually, is very stimulating, with people on wheels, jugglers, people in the air … I love watching everything, but we have one artist (Oleksiy “Alex” Mruz) who performs on the rola bola. It’s a balancing act where he’s always in motion, and I have to hold my breath while he’s performing. Sometimes I just can’t watch!”
Mruz, like Curatolo, is returning for a second year with the Cirque. Along with Mruz’s rola bola, a collection of boards rolling on cylinders, acts in this year’s tour will include Yusaku-Mochizuki, who will perform the diabolo juggling act that American TV audiences viewed first on “America’s Got Talent.”
Who else will be flying through the air, balancing on one hand, or otherwise inspiring awe on the 2019 tour? Featured acts will also include cyr wheel dancer Rachel Salzman and female trapeze duo Virginie Gerbeau and Zoé Sanscartier.
Emcee John Archer, one of the UK’s top comedy magicians, has 17 years of experience entertaining audiences all over the world. He was most recently featured on “Britain’s Got Talent” and named “Magic Circle Stage Magician of the Year.”
“A Magical Cirque Christmas” has roots on Broadway as well as in traditional circus and illusionism – its creators Simon Painter, Tim Lawson, and MagicSpace Entertainment produced “The Illusionists” on Broadway, which also has its own holiday show this season.
This year’s, the “A Magical Cirque Christmas” tour is choreographed by Richard Peakman, associate director on Cirque’s 2018 tour and a veteran of circus-themed shows like “Circus 1903.”
“He’s brilliant,” Curatolo says. “He choreographs every move, from entrances and exits to group numbers. I love working with him.”
Curatolo’s “A Magical Cirque Christmas” performances come right on the heels of her debut with another act familiar to Cobb Energy Centre audiences, Post-Modern Jukebox. The fan-favorite show’s tour concluded just before Cirque Christmas goes into rehearsal.
“I’m moving right from one show to another,” she says. “I’m having a blast [on the Post-Modern Jukebox tour], but I can’t wait to see my Cirque family. It’s so rewarding to perform together.”
Any chance she’s put down her microphone and reach for a trapeze? “No way! I’m in 5-inch heels. I’m strictly on the ground!”
‘A Magical Cirque Christmas’ visits the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center on December 5. See this story in the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center’s November/December issue of Encore Atlanta.