Madison Square Garden Entertainment books both The Chicago Theatre (the site of the world premiere this fall) and The Beacon Theatre. Banana Shpeel concerns the frenzied adventures of a romantic actor named Emmett, who faces a malevolent producer named Schmelky.
Broadway performers Annaleigh Ashford (Wicked, Legally Blonde) and Michael Longoria (Jersey Boys) are expected to be part of the company. The full troupe has yet to be announced, but it will surely draw on Shiner and Cirque's contacts in the clowning, dance and acting communities.
Cirque du Soleil and MSG Entertainment announced Sept. 9 that Banana Shpeel will play The Beacon Theatre — an Off-Broadway venue, at 2124 Broadway — starting Feb. 4, 2010, toward a Feb. 11 opening. The world premiere will play The Chicago Theatre Nov. 19, 2009-Jan. 3, 2010.
Pre-sale tickets for the limited engagement in Manhattan are available starting at 1 PM Sept. 9 to Cirque Club Members and MSG Insiders.
Producers bill the show this way: "Banana Shpeel is a roller-coaster mix of styles that blends comedy with tap, hip hop, eccentric dance and slapstick, all linked by a narrative that ignites a succession of wacky adventures. This is not circus, or a musical or a variety show, or even vaudeville. It is Banana Shpeel! Propelled by crazy humor and intense choreography, Banana Shpeel plunges us into the world of Schmelky, a cruel and irritable producer who dangles fame and fortune in front of Emmett, an innocent and romantic actor who has come to audition for him. Emmett soon finds himself trapped in a flamboyant, anarchic world where Schmelky sows terror and reigns supreme. Emmett falls in love with the beautiful Katie and meets a bunch of absurd characters, including the strange Banana Man. But who is this mysterious Banana Man and how can Emmett escape the clutches of Schmelky and his henchmen?" The show is subtitled A New Twist on Vaudeville on the website of The Chicago Theatre.
Tickets will available to the general public from Oct. 7.
Shiner co-starred and co-created the wordless clown show, Fool Moon, with Bill Irwin. It had three Broadway engagements (1993, 1995 and 1998), winning a Special Tony Award for Live Theatrical Presentation. He also created the role of The Cat in the Hat in Broadway's Seussical in 2000.
In 2007, Shiner directed his first Cirque du Soleil production, the big-top touring show KOOZA.
The creative team of Cirque du Soleil's Banana Shpeel includes Guy Laliberté (artistic guide), Gilles Ste-Croix artistic guide), David Shiner (writer and director), Serge Roy (director of creation), Jean-François Côté (composer and musical director), Jared Grimes (choreographer), Dominique Lemieux (costume designer), Patricia Ruel (set designer and props co-designer), Jasmine Catudal (props co-designer), Bruno Rafie (lighting designer), Harvey Robitaille (sound designer), Eleni Uranis (make-up designer) and Stefan Haves (comic act designer).
Musical theatre composer Laurence O'Keefe (Bat Boy, Legally Blonde, Cam Jansen, Sarah Plain and Tall) was originally announced to be composer and music director; he has left the project.
For more information about the Beacon Theatre engagement, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com or www.beacontheatre.com. For information about the Chicago Theatre run, visit TheChicagoTheatre.com.
Cirque du Soleil celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2009. From a group of 20 street performers at its beginnings in 1984, Cirque du Soleil is now a major Quebec-based organization that has more than 4,000 employees from over 40 different countries, including 1,000 performing artists. In 2009, Cirque will present 20 shows simultaneously throughout the world.
MSG Entertainment (MSGE), the live entertainment arm of Cablevision Systems Corporations, is a worldwide entertainment company known for event production and entertainment marketing. Its performance venues include Radio City Music Hall, Madison Square Garden, The WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden, The Beacon Theatre and The Chicago Theatre, plus an exclusive co-booking agreement with Boston's Citi Performing Arts Center/Wang Theatre. MSGE has an ongoing partnership with Cirque du Soleil to create new content and productions for its venues. Wintuk, which premiered in 2007, was built exclusively for the WaMu Theater at Madison Square Garden and runs every holiday season.