I kicked off my Fringe Festival experience in spectacular style with the opening night performance of headlining act Cirque du Fringe, in the Magic Crystal Spiegeltent. First, let it be said, the Spiegeltent is a beautiful venue and completely worthy of the hype it has received. The circus-y vibe of the site is undeniable, with red and purple curtains draped across the ceiling. Everything is wood, from floor to walls, with rows of stained-glass windows and, as the name might suggest, mirrored highlights throughout. Seating is set up in theater-in-the-round style, with a small stage in the center surrounded by folding chairs on all sides and VIP booths around the outskirts. It's stunning; even more so considering the entire thing was set up in a matter of days. To look at it, you'd think the Spiegeltent were a permanent fixture of our city.
Cirque du Fringe is the perfect show for the setting, and exactly what I was hoping for in an evening of Vegas-style circus entertainment. I will say the show itself was somewhat less risque than I was expecting (or, honestly, hoping), though the muscular pair of strength acrobats were very popular at my table. But there was nothing in the performance a 13-year-old couldn't handle.
Other acts from the night included quick-change artists, mesmerizing aerialists, stunt clowning from the blokes at 20 Penny Circus (their performances seemed to divide the group I was with, but I found them amusing and entirely in keeping with the somewhat dark tone the show was going for), some hugely impressive hula-hooping, a fluorescent juggling act set to Yello's "Oh Yeah," and a ringmaster who gave, as one of my cohorts put it, "quality side-eye."
Shows of this type often call for audience participants, and last night the performers lucked out with some extremely enthusiastic ones, several of whom managed to out mug even those clowns. But the most jaw-dropping act of the night was fittingly saved for last: an astounding bit of balancing skill that has to be seen to be believed. It involved a very high platform, cylinders balanced on top of cylinders, and a tiny skateboard-sized apparatus. I'll say no more.
I was given the chance to sit at one of the VIP tables, and while the booth was comfortable (and allowed me the opportunity to feel swanky for once in my life), in this case it wasn't an ideal viewing situation. I unfortunately had a large post blocking my view of the center of the stage. It didn't hinder my enjoyment of the show, but it was a bit annoying. The VIP seating is nice, but for this show at least, the best seats are on the floor. There were sound issues and occasional mic problems throughout the show, which was somewhat frustrating, but understandable and perhaps unavoidable on opening night for a show with as much going on technically.
Cirque du Fringe performs every day throughout the festival. The show runs 80 minutes and includes a 20-minute intermission. It's worth noting that on the night I attended, the show ran a little long, so keep that in mind if you're planning on theater-hopping.
Cirque du Fringe is performed in the Spiegeltent (corner of Main and Gibbs) nightly through Saturday, September 28, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sunday. Tickets cost $31, or $180 for a VIP booth (seats six).