The MAT’S multi-talented ‘Circus of the Night’ ensemble.
Millibo Art Theatre’s ‘Circus of the Night’ a fun and wild romp
A 16-month intermission didn’t quash the vibe of the Millibo Art Theatre’s talented troupe. The MAT’s signature Circus of the Night cabaret show recently returned to an outdoor garden stage in Colorado Springs amid crackling, colorful bursts of fireworks in the skies above the Ivywild neighborhood. No less sparkly were the performers who dazzled through comedy, dance, song and acrobatics with every titillating turn and twist.
Pivoting to an outdoor setting presented some technical challenges for the cast and crew as they ramped-up from the long hiatus from live performance. Pros at improvisation though, co-ringmasters Jim Jackson and Birgitta De Pree upped the laughs as they as wrangled with spotty mics and flickering stage lights.
The husband-wife duo are the MAT’s co-directors, emceeing the shows with their signature brand of irreverence and bawdy innuendo. A clown at heart, Jackson is humble and self-effacing, as the flamboyant De Pree plays him and the audience into a mounting uproar between acts.
Long-time MAT veteran Elizabeth Fluharty delivered show-stopping acts with her mastery of acrobatics, ropes, aerial silks, and stilts — all accompanied by increasingly wry smiles and musings. Both a circus arts teacher and performer, her talents partner perfectly with a growing comic persona as she weaves her lithe frame through ropes and flips into playful, physics-defying contortions.
Paired with her in one playful bit was Jamie Rockwell as a mischievous mime who seeks to unseat Fluharty as her mentor. Co-owner of the Springs-based Kinect Dance Collective, Rockwell is trained in aerial silks and partner acrobatics. Long and lanky Fluharty aligned well with petite Rockwell in a flawless flow that started with the two apart before gracefully finding their synergy on shared silks dangling 20 feet above the stage.
Staging constraints meant less live music for this show, unfortunately as the MAT and other live performance venues adjust and accommodate to their new norms — so no piano player or musical ensemble this round. Still, Circus — now in its eighth season at the MAT — ignites the senses with all the right vocal notes from chanteuse Miriam Roth. Clad in elegant glittery gowns, Roth excels at the campy ballads of the 1940s and 50s Big Band era. Some diversity in her musical selections would be welcome for a next show.
Heather Carnahan — aka “Cupcake” — first wrapped her hand around a pole in 2013 and describes it as “love at first grasp.” A graduate of the Peaks and Pasties School of Burlesque, Carnahan is a MAT newcomer and presented an amazingly sensual performance of strength and agility both on the pole and hoop.
Unicycling pair Lisbeth Jackson and Claire Schell filled the small stage with their wheeled antics in blazon-red tights and high-top sneakers. The two are first-timers at the MAT, and Jackson also pulls double-duty as the show’s Stage Manager. Leave it to circus arts performers to partner-dance on unicycles; one can only imagine what is next for this youthful duo!
The MAT consistently delivers the unexpected, this time with stagehands Kyle Cox and Carlos Salazar breaking into comic interludes as they shuffled sets before finally taking center stage in their own acts.
While completing his undergraduate degree in math and philosophy at UCCS, Cox honed his juggling skills during quarantine. He added a clever twist to his routine with a snarky grin — whether nailing his throw or dropping a ball or club. A martial artist by trade, Salazar brought some fun machismo to his acrobatic antics and the show’s finale on the aerial straps with a display of amazing strength and balance. An eight-year veteran of aerial arts, Salazar is an aspiring stunt man for small, short films around Colorado.
The Millibo’s corner on cabaret lies in its ability to break down silos: every performer contributes and collaborates toward the show’s underlying comedic theme. Never the same and always a hoot, the return of Circus of the Night is a welcome sight as live performance returns all around Colorado.
An avid patron, promoter and long-past performer, April Tooke has a passion for the performing arts. A former broadcast news journalist, PR person and freelance writer, these days she’s acting the role of an administrative manager by day, but nights and weekends she's seeking out the next theatrical experience.