–by Ashley Cox
On Wednesday, November 29th, families and groups of friends streamed into the lobby of the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Saint Louis to be met with stilt-walking jugglers, extra-large Christmas trees, and swags of twinkling lights. In addition to the show’s first night in Saint Louis, it was “Kids’ Night at the Fabulous Fox” presented by the Fox Performing Arts Charitable Foundation. Staff gave out goodie bags containing twinkling star necklaces and each floor had exciting activities.
Sadly, I am not a child, nor did I have one with me so I could not experience things such as the face painting booth, circus school, or snowball toss. The third floor featured the Wurlitzer Meet and Greet. It is one of the two Wurlitzer organs still in their original venues from the original five Fox theaters. The organ was an imperative part of the Fox’s first life as a movie palace and is one of two in the theater. The smaller organ is in the lobby and was replaced during the theater’s restorations in the 1980s.
We reached our seats in the orchestra pit and marveled at the beautiful, elaborate architecture and the tall, bejeweled trees. The show started promptly (my favorite) at 7:30. The hour and twenty-minute run time means there is no intermission but if you have pre-planned for any “nature’s needs”, you shouldn’t have to worry about needing to leave your seat, nor will you want to.
Cirque’s first Christmas show is based on the poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” by Clement Clark Moore and focuses on the relationship between a father and daughter. Entering her tween years, the daughter just wants to listen to music, browse her phone, and do TikTok dances… she doesn’t want to listen to the Christmas story told by her bumbling father year after year. He tries to get her attention with a dazzling, holographic bicycle when a windstorm and dancing elves known as Les Tuques (The Hats in English) whisk them off on an adventure. Will they be able to see from each other’s point of view and reconnect before Christmas?
The daughter is led through a wonderland of glitter, snow, and acrobatics by Jolly, a somewhat shabby Santa Claus figure. Isabella’s dad gets to wander around alone with his poem while occasionally mistaking a Tuque for Isabella as they hastily ride away on the holographic bike.
There is less traditional clown work as seen in other Cirque shows but the hiphop-esque dancing of Les Tuques and the high energy of sugar-plum dreaming acrobats fill in the lighthearted silliness. The sheer beauty and talent of the aerial performances, especially the Hair Suspension artist who looked like an actual angel as she created illusions with small lights and fluid body motions. She spins as fast as 7 times per second and executes roughly 100 turns during the short performance! The show is taken into the audience during a cast wide snowball fight and the flying diabolos performance. The diabolo, a type of yo-yo, are flung from pit to stage by four talented performers in space-silver snowsuits.
Finally, the lonely father performs a moving aerial acrobatic routine on a swinging lamp before reuniting with Isabella. Having learned the greater meaning of Christmas, the bicycle is returned and a grateful Isabella performs a stunning routine balancing on the bike.
The program mentions that 5 trucks full of fake snow and confetti are used each show and I believe it. The lights, tinsel, holographic costumes combine with the feats and artistry of the human body to make an overwhelming and emotional experience. It is a beautiful treat for the family. ’Twas the Night Before… will be at the Fox, a venue I am convinced has no bad seats, until December 10th with ticket prices ranging from $30 – $135 and can be purchased at the Fabulous Fox website HERE.