Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy

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To the myriad of animals at Busch Gardens add a troupe of frolicking acrobats, contortionists and elaborately costumed dancers and singers dressed as creatures of the forest.

Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy has began a 40-week engagement Friday at the Tampa theme park. It’s not Cirque de Soleil, but Cirque Productions, a competitor based in South Florida. The show, created and directed by stage impresario Neil Goldberg, began touring in 2006 and made it to Broadway in 2008. From there, the company took to the road and currently various shows are touring the nation.

“We have five shows running all at once,” said Goldberg, creator and artistic director of the production.

The show will take place three times a day in the Moroccan Palace Theater.

Goldberg said boiling the show down from its normal two-hour running time to 25 minutes on a cramped stage to accommodate the theme-park crowd wasn’t easy.

“There is a psychology with an audience,” he said. He and Busch Gardens officials got together to figure out what parts of the show would appeal to theme park goers, mainly families with kids and senior citizens. Acts, including jugglers, contortionists and acrobats were included along with some music and comedy.

Performers will be rotated in and out, he said, and could be different at each of the three daily shows. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Cirque Productions has 170 employees, most of whom are performers, Goldberg said, so a lack of talent isn’t a concern.

Many of the performers are from Russia and Eastern Europe, but some are from Tampa, including Ericka Womack-Brown, who works at Busch Gardens as a performer and has sung and danced at previous shows at the park.

A native of Tampa, Womack-Brown is the 26-year-old daughter of local rhythm and blues singer Belinda Womack.

“It’s amazing working with different directors and costumes and choreographers,” Womack-Brown said after the premier show this morning, in front of about 1,100 season pass holders.

She previously had been part of the cast of KaTonga, a musical that was presented on the same stage for six years and nearly 9,000 performances. That show  the longest running show in the theme park’s history ended in September.

Juz is keen blogger on Orlando as well as having written 2 travel books on Disney. You can catch Juz every week on the Eye on Orlando Show, which covers all the happening in and around Central Florida.
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