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Theatre / Banana Shpeel

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This Cirque du Soleil production formally opened in New York City in 2010; if one goes by official premiere dates, it is the twenty-eighth show in the canon.

Unlike most Cirque shows with their fantasy-based plots, this is a Variety Show set within the colorful, broad trappings of old-time Vaudeville. It's presented as the latest production of producer Marty Schmelky, with dance numbers (tap and modern), showgirls, acrobatic specialty acts...and lots of slapstick comedy — more than he, his assistant Margaret, and his comic underlings expected. A trio of oddballs took the stage at the beginning of the show for an audition, and they don't want to give it back...

This show (directed by David Shiner, who helmed KOOZA), Cirque's first for traditional proscenium theaters as opposed to custom-designed ones, had a hellish time of it. It went through two extensive retools on its path to opening in New York, resulting in a months-long delay and lots of bad press. By the time it opened at the Beacon Theater, Cirque was competing with itself with the tent tour OVO's run in the city and the newcomer closed two months ahead of schedule. After an abortive Toronto run, a North American tour was scuppered, rendering this Cirque's first out-and-out failure among its live shows.

This show contained examples of:

  • Audience Participation: A female audience member was roped into a Chez Restaurant sketch and later was brought back for the finale.
  • Broken Win/Loss Streak: This was the first Cirque show to qualify as a bomb. (While ZAIA and Criss Angel BeLIEve opened first to myriad problems, the former still managed to run for several years in China before shutting down in early 2012, and the latter was successfully retooled and continued to run until 2018.)
  • Chez Restaurant: See Audience Participation above.
  • Chorus Girls: Well, it's Vaudeville...
  • Disappearing Box: Two boxes, one on each side of the stage — a person steps in one and comes out of the other. This act quickly went awry.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Sequins, sequins everywhere on the costumes!
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Some of the Chorus Girls' costumes featured these.
  • Fun with Acronyms: In an unfortunate real life example that reflected the show's reception, Cirque fans liked to refer to this show by its acronym — BS.
  • Hopeless Auditionees: The trio of oddballs — a very old man, an Argentinian who thinks himself a ladies' man, and one best described in-story as a "psychotic" — proved just as tenacious as the real things.
  • Large and in Charge: Schmelky.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Schmelky's underlings and the Hopeless Auditionees.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: This was a rare Cirque show in that it lacked any kind of aerial act. Proscenium theaters aren't set up for the elaborate rigging they need, and indeed the Chicago and New York venues could not be altered to incorporate them (they're historic landmarks); at least in the Chicago tryout, this issue was brought up by the characters!
  • Retool: Twice over — first, it was originally intended as part-musical but this aspect and two key characters were dropped when it proved too many elements to handle. Then, after the poorly-reviewed Chicago tryout at the end of 2009, three acrobatic acts and Margaret were added. And this meant three different sets of composers, one for each incarnation.
  • The Show Must Go Wrong: The whole show's built on this premise.
  • Slapstick: Tons.
  • Sliding Scale of Silliness vs. Seriousness: This was undoubtedly Cirque's broadest, silliest show.
  • The Smurfette Principle: While there were plenty of female performers, Margaret was the only woman among the comic principals, and she wasn't introduced until New York. This was a case in which the trope almost applied by default, as women and slapstick humor are generally seen as a poor combination and professional female clowns are a rare breed.