Story by Marianne Salza
Cirque du Soleil is presenting “’Twas the Night Before” at the Wang Theatre through December 11. This cheerful and thrilling production is a playful twist on the iconic Christmas poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” by Clement Clarke Moore.
“It’s cold outside, but we are bringing the warmth,” beamed acrobat and hoop diver, Evan Tomlinson Weintraub, of San Francisco, California. “It is a moment for families to come together.”
This holiday season, join Cirque du Soleil for its first Christmas show about the spirit of Christmas, and the wonders of sharing and friendship. On Christmas Eve, a father reads the classic story to his teenage daughter, Isabelle. Disenchanted by the craze of Christmas, Isabelle is uninterested in the family tradition.
Magic emerges as a spark of light; and the jaded Isabelle is separated from her father by a storm. She is whisked on a fantastical journey through a winter wonderland, where the young girl meets reimagined characters from the poem.
Unlike in the original version of the tale, the children in “’Twas the Night Before” are not snuggled in their beds, patiently awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. Dressed in candy cane-striped onesie pajamas, they are wide awake and eager to see Santa in this high-energy, comical, acrobatic table routine.
“My character is so happy waiting for Santa Claus,” laughed acrobat and hoop diver, Jinge Wang, of China, who plays a boy that instigates the frenzied chaos.
Similar to his character, Wang remembers being too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve. Although he spent last Christmas performing with Cirque du Soleil in Mexico, Wang associates Christmas with chilliness, snow – and, no matter the temperature — eating ice cream.
“It’s a big celebration with family,” described Wang about what Christmas means to him. “Everybody enjoys the Christmas atmosphere.”
Wang and Weintraub’s favorite trick is performed in the scene, when the little ones hear Santa on the roof.
“In three high, people stand on top of each other’s shouders, looking for Santa Claus. I’m the one on top. Then I fall and roll. I can’t see the audience, but I can hear their screaming and clapping” explained Wang, who has studied acrobatics for 22 years, and also practiced wushu, Chinese martial arts.
Weintraub, as Prancer, and Wang, as Comet, also perform in the hoop diving act that introduces Santa’s playful reindeer as a collaborative team.
“I think what’s nice about this show is that it’s built for families,” said Weintraub, who celebrates Christmas on a warm beach with his family. “We tap into the memories of when we were kids, and translate that energy to them to make the show special.”
Weintraub and Wang especially love the enthusiasm and awe of young viewers.
“The more feedback from the audience, the more it helps us to go further,” smiled 30-year-old, Weintraub, who has been a circus acrobat for 18 years; and before that, was a gymnast. “We are giving so much energy, that when we receive it back, it’s like a cycle. It gets better and better.”
Friends, Weintraub and Wang, worked together in “’Twas the Night Before,” in 2019 when the production first debuted. To prepare this year, the acrobats rehearsed the choreography for seven weeks: six days a week for five hours.
“This show has become a hit and classic for Cirque du Soleil,” said Weintraub, who appreciates the supportive teamwork of the circus. “We’re not seeing outrageous changes to it. We’re coming back into a roll that’s familiar, which is nice. It’s a significant amount of time to put in and be learning something. It’s muscle memory now.”
Weintraub and Wang’s golden-antlered reindeer conclude the production as Isabelle is reunited with her father; and they read the poem together.
“They start to explore what Christmas means, where the spark of Christmas comes from, and what it means to share the warmth and light with each other,” Weintraub revealed.