Kaleidoscape is the latest brainchild of Kenneth Feld of Feld Entertainment--which, in addition, to being the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, is also responsible for such productions as Disney on Ice, The Wizard of Oz on Ice, Anastasia on Ice, Grease on Ice, and Siegfried and Roy--not yet on ice, but at the Mirage in Las Vegas. The show, which is currently on tour throughout America, marks the first time that Ringling Bros. has performed in a tent since 1956. It's a great improvement over the company's penchant for three ring circuses performed in faceless, cavernous basketball and hockey arenas.
Though many of Kaleidoscape's performers and producers bristle at even the mention of Cirque Du Soleil, it seems clear that their production is a direct response to that Canada-based circus--which, like Kaleidoscape, is more of a cohesive theatrical experience than your garden-variety extravaganza. Both have taken steps to cleanse, idealize, and aestheticize the art form. This movement has also been seen in cinema, most notably in the Wim Wenders films Wings of Desire and Faraway, So Close! and Patricia Rozema's When Night Is Falling, all of which posited the circus as an otherworldly, almost-divine experience.
Unlike Cirque du Soleil, Kaleidoscape does have a couple of animal acts: eerie, possessed white stallions who respond to the whispers of aerialist/animal trainer Sylvia Zerbini, and a family of performing geese trained by the daffy, Mother Goose-like Olga Rogacheva. Its musical score is more of a pastiche of American, traditional circus and rock 'n' roll styles than a New-Age, cinematic soundscape.
Another thing Kaleidoscape offers that Cirque du Soleil doesn't is intimacy and personal interaction; its Irish Spring-scrubbed and Pepsodent-brushed performers meet and greet the audience before the show begins and, after it ends, they all stand in a circle and offer autographs to their new fans. The experience is happily surprising for people like Linda Hudes, the composer and pianist for Kaleidoscape, whose earliest memories of the circus are that "It was not beautiful. I didn't see any beauty there. It was too loud and the clowns scared me."