“Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” a holiday themed show, will visit Phoenix’s Comerica Theatre from Dec. 20-22. This show — and the Cirque Dreams brand — comes from the mind of one Jewish producer from Florida, Neil Goldberg.
As far as he can remember, Goldberg — who was originally from Long Island — always had a love of theater and the arts. Unfortunately, his parents, who were Orthodox, were not as interested in those subjects as he was. They hoped Goldberg would be more interested in his studies.
“Things have changed now, but the yeshiva I went to didn’t have any arts and crafts activities,” Goldberg said. “It just wasn’t a thing at the time when I was a student. I was always the type of student who was looking out the window and daydreaming. I never was looking at anything on the board.”
As a child, Goldberg saw a production of “The Miracle Worker” and fell in love with the stage. This led to his love of the arts and desire to be a part of it. Goldberg eventually convinced his parents to send him to a public junior high school where he could pursue those passions.
With the contingency that he also get a degree in business, Goldberg went to study theater arts at C.W. Post College on Long Island, now known as LIU Post.
“I had to have a backup plan,” Goldberg joked. “That was the only way they would say yes. But because I studied business, I ended up knowing a lot more about all sides of producing a show, not just the artistic aspect.”
As a producer, Goldberg has to focus both on what is going on- and off-stage, including understanding how long it takes for performers to change costumes, how much a production will cost and even how the set will fit into a truck.
Goldberg has produced several theater productions. “Holidaze” is one of his most beloved shows and will tour for seven weeks in 58 cities across the nation. He’ll be visiting Phoenix for the show’s local debut. The show is part of Goldberg’s Cirque Dreams production company, which he started in 1993. In addition to “Holidaze,” the company has produced shows such as “Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy,” “Cirque Dreams Unwrapped,” “Cirque Dreams Broadway” and more than a dozen others. Of all of his shows, “Holidaze” has a special place in his heart.
“Holidaze” is a seasonal show that celebrates multiple holidays, including Chanukah. It features singers, dancers and acrobats and is one of Goldberg’s proudest accomplishments. The premise was inspired by a collection of holiday ornaments he acquired throughout his travels.
“After I created ‘Cirque Dreams,’ I wanted to create something that paid tribute to the holiday season,” Goldberg said. “All the costumes and stage settings are inspired by that decoration collection, which I started doing as a kid because I thought they were artistic and beautiful.”
Recently, Goldberg sold “Cirque Dreams” to Cirque Du Soleil.
When he’s not working on shows, Goldberg helps younger artists achieve their goals through the Neil Goldberg Dream Foundation, which he established in 2009. He hopes to give them the same chance to explore the arts that he fought for by providing funding for artistic programs.
“I had to jump through a lot of obstacles and run through a maze to go from an 8-year-old strictly Orthodox Jewish kid to a successful theater producer,” Goldberg said. “I see a lot of people in similar situations, struggling in many different ways to achieve that goal. They may not have the funding to support themselves, so I want to make sure that I can help.” JN