Neil Goldberg: A Most Wonderful Conversation with the Man Behind Cirque Dreams ‘Holidaze’

Cirque Dreams presents the acrobatic holiday spectacle 'Holidaze' at the Theater at MGM National Harbor & Casino through December 23rd.

This holiday season, New York City isn’t the only town with a seasonal spectacular. Cirque Dreams is bringing you the 11th season of Holidaze – the winter entertainment explosion that celebrates all that this wonderful time of year has to offer, right here in the DMV. The Theater at MGM National Harbor & Casino will be hosting the family-friendly Holidaze December 20th through 23rd.

Cirque Dreams 'Holidaze' plays at National Harbor MGM through December 23. Photo courtesy of Cirque Dreams.
Cirque Dreams ‘Holidaze’ plays at National Harbor MGM through December 23. Photo courtesy of Cirque Dreams.

I had the opportunity to chat with Neil Goldberg, creator, artistic director and founder of the Cirque Dreams Brand including Cirque Dreams Holidaze.

Goldberg has designed and produced productions of the grandest kind for Disney, the Super Bowl, and other clients. This year, there are five different companies simultaneously performing Holidaze across the country.

The Holidaze project is near and dear to Goldberg’s heart. It endeavors to stir memories and recreate holiday dreams on stage. “Our goal has been to make sure that mom and dad can take the kids and the grandparents and everyone can sit together and enjoy an experience,” he said. 

Holidaze is made up of twenty scenes that contain common themes, but instead of one main story, each scene has its own tale to tell. Cirque Dreams scoured the globe to find the best of the best performers who bring something unique to each scene. Featuring holiday musical favorites, original music, large choreographed numbers, gravity-defying acts, and much, much more, Cirque Dreams Holidaze is guaranteed to wow you.

Here are some of the highlights from my conversation I had with Neil Goldberg.

Allie Press: What inspired you to create a holiday show? (And by “show,” I, of course, mean a spectacular.)

Cirque Dreams 'Holidaze.' Photo courtesy of Cirque Dreams.
Cirque Dreams ‘Holidaze.’ Photo courtesy of Cirque Dreams.

Neil Goldberg: [Laughs] I’m a Jewish kid from New York City. When I was eight-years-old I started collecting discarded ornaments and tinsel from people’s discarded trees after Christmas. I was fascinated by the color and the imagination that went into the design of an ornament, whether it be a simple round ball or something more intricate. Well, fifty-some-odd years later, I now have an ornament collection that has over 10,000 pieces in it.

About twelve years ago I just decided that – wouldn’t it be cool if we just started bringing some of these ornaments to life and using them for costume design? I brought some of my ornaments in, and I said to the staff of designers let’s design costumes.

When the curtain comes up on the show you can hear the audience gasp when they see this cast of thirty performers dressed as ornaments surrounded and dangling from this twenty-four foot, steel-framed tree that was actually built to hold people. It’s those little details that come together, that really resonates with audiences.

Since Holidaze dazzles audiences every year are there different things to see from season to season?

We’re always adding new scenes, new production numbers, new costumes, new music, new artistry. There’s a lot of new stuff that we put into the show every year. The other thing that’s become a signature of Cirque Dreams Holidaze shows is that the shows are very, very layered and textured. There’s a lot going on simultaneously. We want to make sure that during every scene there’s something for everyone.

A lot of people get into theatre and showbiz, but not many take it to the heights that you have. What made you take it to the next level? 

Cirque Dreams 'Holidaze.' Photo courtesy of Cirque Dreams.
Cirque Dreams ‘Holidaze.’ Photo courtesy of Cirque Dreams.

I’m a very driven person, and it wasn’t about success or notoriety or financial gain. As a young person, I went to a public school where you had arts and crafts one day a week, if you were lucky. There weren’t many specialized programs so I needed to work a lot harder through my career to connect the dots and showcase what I was passionate about, which was theatre, art, costume design, and stagecraft.

I think that is what has driven me throughout my career. I always share with people that if you’re passionate about what you do, you’re going to be successful. You know, the proof of the pudding for me is that four months ago I sold Cirque Dreams to Cirque Du Soleil, and so now Cirque Dreams is part of one of the largest global family entertainment companies in the world. And this is from an eight-year-old dreamer who decided to start collecting ornaments. As silly as it sounds, dreams do come true. They don’t necessarily come true by sitting and doing nothing – they come true by persevering.

If you could star in the remake of a classic holiday movie, which character in what movie would it be, and why?

I’d probably have to say Miracle on 34th Street. Because, you know, it has the bright lights of New York City. I’d probably want to be that young child that dreams of what could be as opposed to what actually is. And what’s more of a spectacle than Macy’s In New York City at Christmastime?

The running time is 90 minutes with an intermission.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze plays December 20th through 23rd, 2018, at The Theater at MGM National Harbor & Casino – 101 MGM National Ave, Oxon Hill, MD 20745. For tickets, go online.