Cirque du Soleil's Banana Shpeel, a Mashup of Vaudeville, Circus and Theatre, Slips Into NYC

News   Cirque du Soleil's Banana Shpeel, a Mashup of Vaudeville, Circus and Theatre, Slips Into NYC After many weeks in the sunshine of development, Banana Shpeel, the latest Cirque du Soleil production, is finally ripe enough for New York City. The vaudeville-style theatrical production with circus acts begins April 29 at the Beacon Theatre.
Scene from Banana Shpeel
Scene from Banana Shpeel Photo by Kristie Kahns

The Manhattan debut was first announced for Feb. 4, then bumped to Feb. 25, then to March 17 "to integrate new performance elements." The show has been going through retooling since its world premiere in Chicago in fall 2009.

David Shiner (star and co-creator of the Tony Award-winning Fool Moon) is Banana Shpeel's writer and director.

Banana Shpeel is billed as "a roller coaster mix of styles that blends intense choreography, crazy comedy and distinctive acrobatic acts. The show offers a diverse spectrum of performances including tap, hip-hop and eccentric dance, slapstick comedy and Cirque du Soleil acrobatic acts — plus madcap characters spreading chaos in all directions."

Opening night is May 19. Tickets are currently on sale through Aug. 29, and can be purchased at www.schmelkyproductions.com or www.ticketmaster.com or by calling (866) 858-0008.

Banana Shpeel features an international cast of 38 performers including the main character of over-the-top producer Schmelky, played by Broadway veteran Danny Rutigliano, best known for his role as Timon in The Lion King. Assisting Schmelky are two slapstick sidekicks (Daniel Passer and Wayne Wilson) and assistant Margaret (Shereen Hickman). "As Schmelky works to complete his latest show," he is disrupted by a comedic trio, Claudio Carneiro, Patrick de Valette and Gordon White.

Expect acrobatic performances, including Russian hand balancer Dmitry Bulkin; Vietnamese hat juggler Tuan Le; Spanish foot juggler Vanessa Alvarez; Canadian hand-to-hand duo Preston Jamieson and Kesley Wiens; and Russian contortionists Tsybenova Ayagma, Tsydendambaeva Imin and Zhambalova Lilia.

Banana Shpeel features dance, too: brother-sister tap dance duo Joseph and Josette Wiggan and a ensemble including Robyn Baltzer, Kassie Brown, Adrienne Jean Fisher, DeWitt Fleming Jr., Karida Griffith, Luke Hawkins, Kathleen Hennessey, Adrienne Reid, Anthony J. Russo, Melissa Schott, Josh Scribner, Alexis Sims and Steven T. Williams.

Under the direction Petros Sakelliou, Banana Shpeel's original score is performed live on stage by Roland Barber (trombone), Bobby Brennan (bass), Mario Hébert Iohann Laliberté (drums), Jean-François Ouellet (saxophones), Roger Squitero (percussion) and Scott Steen (trumpet).

The creative team includes artistic guides Guy Laliberté (Cirque du Soleil founder) and Gilles Ste-Croix; writer and director David Shiner; director of creation Serge Roy; composer and arranger Simon Carpentier; choreographer Jared Grimes; costume designer Dominique Lemieux; set designer and props co-designer Patricia Ruel; props co-designer Jasmine Catudal; lighting designer Bruno Rafie; sound designer Harvey Robitaille; and make-up designer Eleni Uranis.

Banana Shpeel writer-director Shiner started out as a mime in Paris. His career took off in 1984 when he was discovered at the renowned circus festival Cirque de Demain. Shiner later teamed up with Bill Irwin to create the wordless two-man show Fool Moon, winner of a Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award. In 2007, Shiner directed his first Cirque du Soleil production, the big top touring show Kooza. He starred as the Cat in the Hat in Broadway's Seussical.

Daniel Passer, Danny Rutigliano and Wayne Wilson in <i>Banana Shpeel</i>.
Daniel Passer, Danny Rutigliano and Wayne Wilson in Banana Shpeel. Photo by Olivier Samson Arcand
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